3rd Circuit Considers 1st Amendment Right to Film Police

“Copwatch” Case heard by 3rd Circuit

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals heard argument on May 9, 2017 on the question of whether there is a 1st Amendment right to film on-duty police officers. The case is Fields v. City of Philadelphia and a video of the argument can be viewed from this link.

The plaintiffs claimed that police retaliated against them for taking a video recording of them during separate incidents in Philadelphia. The District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that civilians have no 1st Amendment right to film on-duty police absent expressive conduct.

The Pennsylvania ACLU appealed to the court of appeals on behalf of the plaintiffs.

In a written statement about the “copwatch ruling,” the ACLU-PA called civilian video recordings of police “essential” to holding officers accountable for their actions.

We can expect a decision from the 3rd Circuit in about four months.

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