Recording Police Action in Florida


Considering the prevalence of smartphones with cameras and recording capabilities, it is somewhat expected that the accessibility of recorded clips would bring up related issues in the legal setting. A recent article reported that one such recording has led to a woman in Florida suing a police department after she spent a night incarcerated after being pulled over for a routine traffic violation.


The Florida woman was pulled over by an officer from the Broward County Sheriff’s Department in March of last year for driving in the HOV lane when doing so was against the law. She began recording on her cell phone as the officer approached her vehicle, and informed him that the encounter was being recorded after speaking with him for about 15 seconds. The officer told her that she had committed a felony, and the two began arguing over the recording. The officer requested numerous times that she turn off the recording and surrender her cell phone, but she refused. The officer informed the woman that she would be arrested, but she argued that she had not committed a crime.

The woman reported that at one point during the exchange, the officer grabbed her wrist and injured her before forcing himself into the car’s passenger side and attempting to remove the woman from her vehicle. Although he took her into custody and she spent the night in jail, she was released the next day without being charged or given any sort of explanation as to why she was incarcerated in the first place.

The Resulting Lawsuit

Now, the woman has notified the Broward Sheriff’s Office that she is filing suit as a result of the incident. While the law in this area is not clear cut, a representative from the Broward American Civil Liberties Union says that the woman has a good chance of being successful in her lawsuit.

The law in Florida allows a citizen to record a police officer performing his or her duties, provided that both parties agree to the recording. Here, the legality of the first 15 seconds of the woman’s recording is questionable, but the case still has the potential to set worthy precedent. The situation viewed in its entirety makes a strong case that the officer overreacted and it is abundantly clear that she should not have spent the night in jail as a result of the encounter.

The woman said that while she was incarcerated, another officer told her that her arrest may be illegal. She refused to name that officer. Her attorneys are arguing that the police were out of line in their response to the situation, and used excessive force just because she was recording the exchange on her phone. They want to make the point that this is unacceptable police behavior.

While many laws may prioritize officer safety and protect police procedure, the fact remains that officers are not free to infringe an individual’s rights for any reason. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in the state of Florida, an experienced criminal defense attorney can listen to the facts of your case and advise you of your rights. Contact us today for a consultation.