Undermining Excessive Privacy for Police: Citizen Tape Recording to Check Police Officers' Power
10 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2009
Date Written: July 28, 2009
In the recent case of Jean v. Massachusetts State Police, the First Circuit suggested that a man who secretly audiotaped and videotaped police officers conducting a warrantless search of his home might have violated the Massachusetts tape recording law, because Massachusetts (along with several other states) criminalizes recording a communication without the knowledge or consent of all parties to the communication. This Comment argues that citizen tape recording, such as the recording that was made in Jean, provides a necessary check against police abuses of power and furthers privacy values underlying the Constitution and other laws. But the Comment acknowledges that police officers’ interests in privacy and safety must be balanced as well. Therefore, it argues that states should permit citizens to record police officers in the line of duty without those officers’ consent, as long as the citizens' recordings are made in a physically unintrusive manner and do not capture police communications that the officers could reasonably expect not to be recorded.
Keywords: privacy, constitutional law, wiretapping and recording laws
JEL Classification: K00, K10, K13, K14, K30, K39, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation