DENVER — A federal appeals court based in Denver has agreed with six of the nation’s other 12 appeals courts that the First Amendment guarantee of free speech gives people the right to film police as they do their work in public.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday in the case of a YouTube journalist and blogger who claimed that a Lakewood police officer blocked him from recording a 2019 traffic stop. Citing decisions from the other courts, the 10th Circuit said the right to record police was clearly established at the time and reinstated the lawsuit of the blogger, Abade Irizarry.
“It makes absolutely clear to the degree it wasn’t clear already that police officers have to respect your ability to film them unobtrusively from a public place when they’re engaged in their official duties," said Andrew Tutt, the Appellate and Supreme Court attorney at Arnold and Porter who represented Irizarry.
A lower court had said the right wasn't clearly established at the time, preventing the officer from being sued. U.S. government lawyers intervened in the appeal to support the public’s right to record police.
The court oversees four western and two midwestern states — Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah — as well as parts of Yellowstone National Park that lie in Idaho and Montana.
“I think we are so glad that it brings us one step closer to one day seeing this right recognized in every part of the United States," said Tutt, who added that only about half of the country has a legal case that explicitly states citizens have this right.
The ruling comes after Arizona’s Republican governor last week signed a law that went the opposite direction, making it illegal in Arizona to knowingly video police officers 8 feet (2.5 meters) or closer without an officer’s permission.
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