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"No, I’ll keep recording"

A recent case highlights some police behavior that can be a problem in certain situations. A man driving for Uber was stopped for a broken taillight on his vehicle. As the police approached, he began taking video with his cellphone. The police officer ordered him to turn off the camera, stating "Hey, bud, turn that off, okay." The driver politely declined.

He replied to the officer, "No, I’ll keep recording, thank you, it’s my right." The officer then insisted that "You don't record me, you got me?" The next part of the conversation is one that many drivers in Michigan have probably experienced. The police officer then stated, "Be careful because there is a new law," and "Turn it off or I’ll take you to jail." But that statement was a lie. And the Uber driver knew it.

While the man was driving a vehicle for Uber, he also happened to be a criminal defense attorney. He knew there was no state law prohibiting the videoing of a police officer in public during a routine traffic stop. He remained calm as the officer escalated the situation and ordered a K-9 unit, forced the driver out of the vehicle and then searched both the driver and the vehicle without the man's consent.

It should be noted that both of those searches were illegal. In addition to lying about state law, the officer also violated the man's Fourth Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches.

Police often intimidate drivers by lying about their reasons for stopping a vehicle and then will attempt to obtain consent to a search in the hopes of finding something illegal. This has been routine for most police departments for as long as there have been vehicles. It is only with the advent of the readily available cellphone video that we are now seeing just how common this behavior has become.

Law enforcement knows that most individuals are intimidated by a police encounter and are easily cowed into surrendering their Constitutional rights. Michigan currently has no law that forbids recording in a situation like this, but that won't stop police from trying.


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