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Federal Court Rules Filming Police Is Protected By First Amendment

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A federal court of appeals recently ruled that citizens have a first amendment right to film police. The decision stems from two local cases where police confiscated a bystanders’ cell phone.

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“First Amendment is still an important check on government power,” said Molly Tack-Hooper a staff attorney at the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

They represented Rick Fields a Temple student who tried to film police as they broke up a house party, and Amanda Geraci who attempted to take photos of police arresting protesters at an Anti-Fracking rally.

A district court held the plaintiffs needed to assert the first amendment otherwise police could stop them. But a three judge Third Circuit Panel overturned that ruling.

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“In ruling in favor of our clients the court actually acknowledged that civilian recordings of police have played an incredibly important part in our national conversation about policing,” she said.

Five other federal appeals court have come to similar conclusions, so Tack-Hooper believe without a conflict in the circuit it’s unlike the US Supreme Court would weigh in.

In response to a request for comment, Lauren Hitt, spokesperson for the city of Philadelphia wrote, “as this is still open, we don’t have a comment at this time.”

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