Can I Record the Police in Florida?

August 9, 2021 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

Florida Law

The legality of videotaping interactions with police has been an issue that many courts, including those in Florida, have grappled with in the new age of technology. Section 934.03 of the Florida Statutes states that the interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications is strictly prohibited. Specifically, the statute finds the anyone who does the following is guilty of a third-degree felony, punishable by a sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000:

  1. Intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept any wire, oral, or electronic communication;
  2. Intentionally uses, endeavors to use, or procures any other person to use or endeavor to use an electronic, mechanical, or other device to intercept any oral communication when:
  3. Such device is affixed to, or otherwise transmits a signal through, a wire, cable, or other like connection used in wire communication; or
  4. Such device transmits communications by radio or interferes with the transmission of such communication.


An exception to the rule that forbids intercepting communication is if all parties consent to the act. In addition, the statute only protects oral communication if the person speaking has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Historically, both federal courts and courts in Florida have ruled that police officers do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they are performing their duties in public places.

Federal Rulings & the General Rule

The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, whose jurisdiction extends to Florida, has ruled that “individuals have a First Amendment right, subject to reasonable time, manner, and place restrictions, to photograph or videotape police conduct.” Furthermore, the court has held that individuals “have the right to gather information about what public officials do on public property, and specifically, a right to record matters of public interest.” Therefore, the general rule is that you are free to record police if you are in a public space and if recording them does not interfere with them conducting police activity. If you are in a more private place, you need to make sure that either the officer has consented or that, because of the location, they do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

A Recent Case

On May 5, 2021, a divided Florida appeals court ruled that there was no error in upholding the arrest of Tasha Ford, a woman who was arrested in Boynton Beach, Florida, for recording police as they detained her teenage son in 2009. The judges presiding over the case stated she obstructed the police investigation and processing of her son’s detention, both acts that are within the lawful execution of police duties. Officers said they repeatedly ordered Ford to stop recording them without their permission as it was interfering with their investigation. Judge Martha C. Warner dissented, stating that police should have no reasonable expectation of privacy in public places. Furthermore, she stated:

“Given how important cellphone videos have been for police accountability across the nation, I do not believe that society is ready to recognize that the recording of those interactions, which include audio recordings, are somehow subject to the officer’s right of privacy. If that were the case, then had the individual who recorded George Floyd saying to the officers ‘I can’t breathe’ been in Florida, he would have been guilty of a crime.”

The ruling came as a shock to many, as it seemed to conflict the general rule throughout the country that recordings are permitted as long as it doesn’t interfere with police doing their jobs.

A Drastic Turn in the Case

Last week on August 4th, 2021, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed course, ruling that Ford had the right to record police while they were detaining her son and she did not obstruct the police investigation by doing so. Two judges joined dissenting Judge Warner, agreeing that police do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they are performing their duties in public places. It is believed that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who, along with 12 media groups, joined the suit to express that the ruling would “have a chilling effect not just on citizens, like Ford, but on the First Amendment rights of news-gathering organization”, helped sway the court. Samuel Alexander, Ford’s attorney, stated “it was a prolonged case of gas-lighting” and “an important case and body of law for the state of Florida.”

Contact a Tallahassee Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you feel as though you or a loved one were wrongfully arrested and charged for recording an interaction with police, it is imperative you seek the immediate help of a diligent and experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law firm will ensure that the law is followed, and you or a loved one’s constitutional rights are respected and upheld. Call (850) 681-7777 or send an online message today for an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

This article was written by Sarah Kamide

Back to Top