Another Incident of Police Reacting Badly to Being Filmed

On Tuesday, April 21, the U.S. Marshals Service announced they would be reviewing a video that shows a deputy U.S. Marshall in South Gate, California charging at a woman who was filming them at a crime scene, grabbing her phone, smashing it onto the curb, and then subsequently kicking her belongings (you can view the 53-second video here).  Unbeknownst to the U.S. Marshals, someone else was quietly filming the woman doing the filming, and posted their video capturing the incident online. While the caption originally tagged the South Gate Police Department, it has been confirmed that the ‘officers’ involved in the video were U.S. Marshals, and the incident is now being “investigated.”  In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Beatriz Paez, 34, said she feared for her life during the confrontation.  According to her attorney, the phone’s screen is shattered and doesn’t work, but they will be trying to recover Paez’s video from the phone’s chip.

Constitutional Violations

I have blogged about the constitutionality and the right to record police before, but today, I am going to discuss the potential civil rights violations that may have occurred in the aforementioned incident to further drive in my point that those exercising their constitutional rights are not doing anything illegal or wrong.  By now, it should be obvious to most of you that constitutional law and criminal law are inter related, and have huge implications for those who have been subject to criminal charges and/or actions by police.  Because of 1st amendment protections of free speech and 4th amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure and undue force, there should be no situation where an officer can intentionally grab and destroy a camera being used to lawfully record law enforcement in a public place, especially when the filmer was not impeding on police activities.

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code (18 U.S.C. § 1983) is enacted as part of the federal Civil Rights Act to authorize a wide variety of lawsuits against state and government officials for deprivations of civil rights while they were operating under the “color of state law,” (ie. acting within their scope of employment as a government official).  Section 1983 essentially gives a private right of action to sue a state actor (ie. police officer) if s/he has violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights, including 1st and 4th Amendment violations. Most importantly, the statute authorizes uncapped damages for claims such as emotional distress, punitive, and compensatory damages.  Arrests for asserting constitutional rights will also give rise to civil claims under Section 1983.

San Diego Filming Police Lawyer

The Law Offices of David M. Boertje handles all misdemeanor and felony criminal cases including charges of evading a police officer and charges of ‘impeding’ a police officer’s activities.  We are dedicated to protecting your constitutional rights and freedom, and have successfully represented many defendants, including those with criminal charges for resisting arrest, evading a police officer, or ‘impeding a police officer’s activities.’  If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, contact attorney David Boertje today for a free consultation.