Can You Record a Police Officer in New Jersey? — Forrester Law Firm: Your Best Choice For Criminal Defense (2023)

Allegations of police misconduct make headlines across the country. Incidents involving police brutality, harassment, false allegations, and general abuse of authority are troubling but increasingly commonplace. When interacting with law enforcement officials, it is important to take steps for self-protection. At the Forrester Law Firm, a common question we hear is about whether an individual can record a police officer. In New Jersey, it is legal to capture videos and audio recordings of a law enforcement encounter on your cell phone or through other means. This is true for bystanders as well as those being charged with a crime. Our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys can help if you or someone you love has been a victim of police harassment or is facing criminal charges. Consider calling (609) 613-1513 to schedule a free consultation.

Why Record Police Interactions

No one wants to find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Whether through mistaken identity, errors in judgment, or getting caught up with a bad crowd, being stopped and questioned by the police is a serious matter. In these situations, the police have a duty to respect the civil liberties of suspects, witnesses to the incident, or bystanders at the scene. That respect includes adhering to policies and procedures that protect an individual’s human rights and freedoms. Unfortunately, violations and accusations of police misconduct are increasingly common. In 2021, for the first time ever, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office released a list of police officers facing disciplinary actions. The list shows over 200 separate incidents of misconduct during just a six-month period. The most common violations include:

  • Conduct unbecoming of an officer

  • Neglect of duty

  • Use of excessive force in making arrests

  • Threatening and harassing bystanders and suspects

  • Providing misleading information

  • Unconstitutional searches and seizures

  • Manufacturing evidence

  • Making false statements on reports

  • Acting in an official capacity while under the influence of alcohol or drugs

The ability to record a police officer during a traffic stop, while being questioned, or when placed under arrest may help to prevent these types of violations from happening. Recordings can also provide valuable evidence in criminal cases for holding law enforcement officials accountable for their actions.

The Legal Right to Record a Police Officer

The New Jersey Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:156A-1) gives law enforcement officials the right to listen in on phone lines and intercept other electronic and oral communications among alleged suspects in certain situations. These recordings can then be used as justification for conducting searches or making arrests and as evidence in criminal court cases. While the law gives police officers the right to record citizens, do citizens have the right to record police officers? Under the United States Constitution, the First Amendment gives each citizen the right to observe, object to, and record police activities in the following places:

  • On public property—city sidewalks, parks, public transportation, and businesses

  • On your own property—personally owned or rented land, homes, cars, boats, or other recreational vehicles

  • On private property—in a common area, such as an apartment courtyard, or with the consent of the property owner

Provided that an individual is not interfering with an active investigation, impeding officers in performing their duties, or putting himself or others at risk, that citizen has the right not only to record a police officer but also to express concern and criticize his or her actions without fear or threat. In general, officers are not authorized to seize recordings or devices without a search warrant, unless they have a valid reason to believe that the recording contains evidence of a violent crime resulting in serious bodily harm or death and that the recording may be destroyed if not seized.

What To Do If Stopped by Police

New Jersey statewide policing policies were updated in December 2021 and directly address the issue of recording a police officer. The policies affirm the right to record these interactions and prohibit officers from hindering the public’s efforts, such as by telling bystanders that they are not permitted to record or requesting identification.

In the event that you are the one being stopped by police, take certain steps to protect yourself. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) offers a free cellphone application that allows users to not only record but upload the interaction. These uploads alert the ACLU, which provides a transcript of the incident. The app also alerts other app users in the area, who can then respond and act as witnesses. Additional steps the Forrester Law Firm advises clients to take if they are stopped by police in their car, visited at home or at their place of work, or questioned on the street or in other public and private places include the following:

  • Remain calm and avoid any sudden movements or gestures

  • Keep your hands where the officer can see them at all times

  • Ask for permission before reaching for items, such as your identification

  • Other than providing your name and address, affirm your right to remain silent

  • Do not consent to a search but do not physically resist

  • Inquire whether you are being placed under arrest and why

  • If you are not being arrested, ask if you are allowed to leave

  • Request a phone call and refer further questions to a New Jersey criminal defense attorney. Contact The Forrester Law Firm in order to learn more about your legal rights.

Schedule a Free Consultation with A New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney

With increasing reports of police abuses, it is important to be aware of your rights during any interaction with law enforcement. This includes the right to record a police officer so that he or she can be held accountable for any abuses or civil rights violations. The Forrester Law Firm provides trusted guidance in these situations and, as a criminal trial attorney, aggressively represents people who face criminal charges in New Jersey. To schedule a free consultation, consider calling (609) 613-1513.


Can You Record a Police Officer in New Jersey? — Forrester Law Firm: Your Best Choice For Criminal Defense? ›

At the Forrester Law Firm, a common question we hear is about whether an individual can record a police officer. In New Jersey, it is legal to capture videos and audio recordings of a law enforcement encounter on your cell phone or through other means.

What amendment allows police to record? ›

To date, the First, Third, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals have recognized a First Amendment right to record police personnel carrying out their official duties in a public place.

Should you always record the police? ›

It's best to do so politely, directly, and without using profanity. Don't taunt the police. It is best to record the police without saying anything at all. If you have information that pertains to the situation, explain just that: I have information that can help with your investigation.

Do you have to identify yourself to the police in NJ? ›

The officer must have reasonable suspicion that you are involved in illegal activity to require you to stop and identify yourself. Even still, you are not legally required to provide ID unless you are involved in a traffic stop, being issued a summons, or another legal situation that requires such identification.

What disqualifies you from being a police officer in NJ? ›

Automatic Disqualifiers

The applicant was convicted of an indictable offense or is presently under an indictment. The applicant was convicted of any offense involving domestic violence. as defined under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 or was convicted of driving while intoxicated as defined under N.J.S.A.

Is recording police protected by the First Amendment? ›

Courts have recognized a First Amendment right to film police. Several recent court decisions have recognized a First Amendment right to film and record police-citizen interactions.

What states can you not record police? ›

Two of those states, Massachusetts and Illinois have a provision called an “expectation of privacy.” This means these laws do not apply to recording on-duty police. In the rest of the 48 states, it is legal to openly film police who are on-duty.

Can you record your interaction with the police? ›

You are allowed to record. You can record anything that is going on as long as it not interfering with another officer's investigation, which in most cases it is not. If you have been stopped for speeding, or you have been stopped for an investigation of a DUI, you're allowed to hit that record button.

Are you allowed to record the police in us? ›

Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to record audio of public officials, including police officers, as long as the recording is not done in a way that interferes with the officers' performance of their duties or violates anyone's privacy.

Why do police not like being recorded? ›

Why do police officers hate being recorded while they are working, even though it is not against the law? Because some people record police officers with ulterior motives. Video footage can be edited to show whatever they want it to show, and usually it's to show the officer in the worst possible light.

Is it legal to film police in NJ? ›

In New Jersey, it is legal to capture videos and audio recordings of a law enforcement encounter on your cell phone or through other means. This is true for bystanders as well as those being charged with a crime.

Can a cop ask a passenger for ID in New Jersey? ›

Essentially, the police cannot require a passenger whom they do not suspect of wrongdoing to produce identification. The passenger has an expectation of privacy, despite being detained with the driver, and the police intrude upon that privacy by improperly asking for identification.

Can you show a cop a picture of your license in NJ? ›

Summary. To conclude, traffic police won't accept a picture as proof of a valid driver's license, so remember to always carry the corresponding documents when driving a vehicle.

Is it illegal to curse at a police officer in NJ? ›

Were Your Words Inciting or Threatening? The general rule is that you cannot threaten or incite violence against a police officer. If your insults include a threat like “I'm going to kill you,” or “Let's all rush him,” you will be treated with much less leniency by New Jersey Court.

What can you not do as a cop? ›

Police officers cannot: Use excessive force during an arrest or encounter. Commit assault or battery. Plant evidence or tamper with evidence.

Are police allowed to chase in NJ? ›

5.13 Officers involved in a pursuit shall not engage in any vehicle contact action except as a last resort to prevent imminent death or serious injury to the officer or another person where deadly force would otherwise be justified.

Can I shine a flashlight at a cop? ›

Police are allowed to look inside your car and react to anything they see in plain view. At night, it is very difficult for police to see if there is anything in your car that you could use to harm them. That is why it is legal for them to shine the flashlight around and make sure there isn't anything worrisome.

What does the Constitution say about filming? ›

Taking photographs and video of things that are plainly visible in public spaces is a constitutional right—and that includes transportation facilities, the outside of federal buildings, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties.

What amendment is recording without consent? ›

3d 1332, 1333 (11th Cir. 2000) (“The First Amendment protects the right to gather information about what public officials do on public property, and specifically, a right to record matters of public interest.”) (emphases added).

What is the code 148g? ›

California Penal Code 148(g) PC states that photographing or recording law enforcement does not constitute resisting or obstructing a police officer as long as the officer is in a public place or the person with the camera has the right to be there.

What state is it illegal to record? ›

Eleven states require two-party consent, however. In other words, everyone involved in a conversation must agree to be recorded. Those states are California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. (Don't let the phrase “two-party” throw you.

What is the penal code 148? ›

Penal Code 148 PC makes it a crime to willfully resist a police officer while performing their duties. Generally, a resisting arrest takes two forms: running away and a physical confrontation with law enforcement to prevent them from handcuffing or taking you away from the scene.

How do you tell if you're being set up by police? ›

Confirming Physical Surveillance
  1. a person being somewhere he has no purpose being or for doing something he has no reason to be doing (blatant poor demeanor) or something more subtle.
  2. moving when the target moves.
  3. communicating when the target moves.
  4. avoiding eye contact with the target.
  5. making sudden turns or stops.
Sep 1, 2022

Can you film record police activity in public as long as you are not interfering in the performance of their duties? ›

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which includes Delaware, has held that there is a First Amendment right to film and audio record “police officers conducting their official duties in public.” Fields v.

Are you allowed to record in Walmart? ›

Out of respect for our associates and customers, unauthorized filming is prohibited and we reserve the right to enforce that policy.

Can you stop someone from recording you? ›

If you realize someone is recording you without your permission in a public setting, there isn't much you can do but ask them to stop or leave. If this is a recurring occurrence with a certain individual, you can call the police or choose to sue if you have legal grounds for it.

Do you have to identify yourself to the police in USA? ›

If police confront you during an incident, one of the first questions they may ask is your name or for you to identify yourself. But what happens if you say no? If you have not been lawfully detained or arrested, you do not have to provide your identification to law enforcement.

Is it illegal to record someone without their permission USA? ›

Under the federal Wiretap Act, it is illegal for any person to secretly record an oral, telephonic, or electronic communication that other parties to the communication reasonably expect to be private. (18 U.S.C.

What are police intimidation tactics? ›

Intimidation. Another tactic the police could utilize is to verbally and emotionally intimidate you. They could yell at you or throw papers at you to scare you. The police could also keep you in the interrogation room for hours or throughout the night to wear you down until you confess.

What is it called when you don't listen to the police? ›

Contempt of cop - Wikipedia.

Do police have to put themselves in harm's way? ›

No matter how they do it, it will probably be extremely dangerous. They might be risking their own lives. But as courts have determined, they have no obligation to do that.

What is the right to record in New Jersey? ›

An individual who is a party to or has the consent of at least one of the parties to a private in-person conversation or a telephone or electronic communication can lawfully record that conversation or disclose its contents, unless the person is doing so for the purpose of committing a criminal or tortious act.

What are the recording laws in New Jersey? ›

New Jersey recording law stipulates that it is a one-party consent state. In New Jersey, it is a criminal offense to use any device to record or share communications, whether they are oral or electronic, without the consent of at least one person taking part in the communication.

Can you film on the street? ›

Freedom to photograph and film

Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.

Can police search your car in NJ? ›

Police stopping motorists to investigate crimes cannot search their cars without a warrant unless the circumstances that sparked their suspicion were “unforeseeable and spontaneous,” the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Is NJ a stop and frisk? ›

While the state of New Jersey still has stop and frisk laws in place, it is important that people know their rights as civilians, especially in cases where the stop and frisk proved unnecessary.

Should you answer police questions? ›

Q: Do I have to answer questions asked by law enforcement officers? A: No. You have the constitutional right to remain silent. In general, you do not have to talk to law enforcement officers (or anyone else), even if you do not feel free to walk away from the officer, you are arrested, or you are in jail.

Can you refuse to show ID in NJ? ›

The officer must have reasonable suspicion that you are involved in illegal activity to require you to stop and identify yourself. Even still, you are not legally required to provide ID unless you are involved in a traffic stop, being issued a summons, or another legal situation that requires such identification.

Can you smile in your license picture New Jersey? ›

In New Jersey, staffers at the Motor Vehicle Commission are trained to take a picture that works within the system, according to spokeswoman Elyse Coffey. "If you'd like to smile, that's great. What we're asking people is to not smile as if they just won the $5 million dollars in the lottery smile," Coffey explained.

Can you change your driver's license picture in NJ? ›

Visit any one of the 39 MVC agencies and you will be able to make changes to your license or non-driver ID. All customers who visit an MVC agency to renew a driver's license or non-driver ID must present 6 Points of Identification and proof of address, and have a new photo taken.

Can I yell at a cop? ›

To be clear, there isn't a law that specifically forbids yelling, swearing or otherwise being rude to a law enforcement officer – as long as you're not threatening to harm them or someone else. This is protected speech under the First Amendment.

How do you deal with a rude police officer? ›

How To Deal With Confrontational Cops
  1. Say as Little as Possible & Don't Admit Anything.
  2. Exhibit Non-Aggressive Behavior & Speech.
  3. Demonstrate Respect.
  4. If you Must Get Mad, Do it Later!
  5. Next step: contact a Colorado criminal defense attorney.

Can you curse in public NJ? ›

Offensive, obscene or abusive language use is a petty disorderly persons offense in New Jersey. It is punishable by a fine of up to $500. The charge will remain on your record for a minimum of five years, which may get in the way of you obtaining a job.

What are the three things cops never do? ›

According to Jack Reacher, a fictional military police investigator in the movies, “There are three things cops never do, they don't vote democratic, they don't drive Cadillac's and they never use personal vehicles.”

Can a cop say I'm not a cop? ›

When police officers are working undercover, they are legally allowed to lie about anything, including their identity. So, if a person asks an undercover police officer whether he is a cop, he or she can lie and say they are not a cop.

Can you talk bad to a cop? ›

Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Americans have the right to freely express themselves to police officers. This includes speech that is profane, rude, insulting, or verbally abusive.

Do you have to show ID to police in NJ? ›

Most often, once an officer approaches the vehicle, the officer will immediately request the driver's credentials (license, registration and proof of insurance). The driver should first present his or her credentials to the officer(s).

Do you have to roll your window all the way down for police in NJ? ›

If you are stopped at night, turn on your dome and/or interior lights. This will increase the visibility inside your vehicle so the Officer will be less concerned about what he or she can't see. Roll down your driver's side window. Roll down any other windows if those windows are tinted.

What does 3 cop cars mean at a house? ›

Sometimes the nature of the stop suggests that extra officers are needed for safety. There might be a lookout on a vehicle from a robbery. Sometimes it's the number of people inside. Sometimes it's the actions of the occupants that make an officer call for backup.

What is the 14th Amendment for police? ›

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

What is the 4th Amendment in policing? ›

Reasonableness Requirement

All searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment must be reasonable and no excessive force shall be used. Reasonableness is the ultimate measure of the constitutionality of a search or seizure. Searches and seizures with the warrant must also satisfy the reasonableness requirement.

What is the 5th Amendment for police? ›

The Fifth Amendment says the government can't force someone to provide testimonial evidence against himself in a criminal case. Because custodial interrogations by police are inherently coercive, the Supreme Court requires officers in those circumstances to tell the suspect about that Fifth Amendment right.

What is the 4th Amendment right? ›

The Constitution, through the Fourth Amendment, protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. The Fourth Amendment, however, is not a guarantee against all searches and seizures, but only those that are deemed unreasonable under the law.

What is the 10th Amendment? ›

The Tenth Amendment says that the Federal Government only has those powers delegated in the Constitution. If it isn't listed, it belongs to the states or to the people.

What is the 26th Amendment in simple terms? ›

Twenty-Sixth Amendment. Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age. Section 2: The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

What is the 24th Amendment say? ›

The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or ...

What is the 9th Amendment? ›

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

What is the 8th Amendment? ›

Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

What is the 7th Amendment? ›

The Seventh Amendment requires civil jury trials only in federal courts. This Amendment is unusual. The U.S. Supreme Court has required states to protect almost every other right in the Bill of Rights, such as the right to criminal jury trial, but the Court has not required states to hold civil jury trials.

Can you say I plead the fifth to a cop? ›

You have a 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination. This means you don't have to say anything to law enforcement that may incriminate you. You can stay silent or tell the officer that you are not going to answer any questions.

Can you plead the fifth to every question? ›

The Fifth Amendment can be invoked only in certain situations. An individual can only invoke the Fifth Amendment in response to a communication that is compelled, such as through a subpoena or other legal process. The communication must also be testimonial in nature.

Are police going to read you your Fifth Amendment right? ›

Police are not required to read your Miranda rights before or during arrest. While some officers may choose to do so, they are only legally obligated to “Mirandize” suspects who are being questioned in custody.

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