Lots of people digital record sections of their lives these days, particularly in the San Francisco area. Every pack of skaters is recording their failure to do smooth moves, every tourist has a camera (or two) and more than a few bikers have helmet cameras.
One such is Anthony Graber [PDF], a computer systems engineer and staff Sergeant in the Maryland Air National Guard, who uses a popular (and highly visible) helmet cam to record his rides. While out on the road he was pulled over for speeding by a highly excitable plain clothes policeman in an unmarked car, who pulled a gun on the rider before ticketing him for driving his CBR1000RR too fast - which several of Sleuth's friends would contend is just how it was supposed to be driven.
It might all have ended there, a fine for speeding and maybe a small ban depending on the infraction. But Graber put the video of his arrest on YouTube a week later and it went viral. One morning six police raided his parents house and impounded all of his computers, cameras and electronics.
He was also charged with violating state wiretapping laws and the Harford County State's Attorney has also filed additional motor vehicle charges, and the charge of possession of "a device..primarily useful for the purpose of surreptitious interception of oral communications," ie, the popular GoPro video camera mounted on the outside of his helmet.
"Police officers doing their jobs in a public place, such as an interstate highway, cannot reasonably claim that their communications are private," said ACLU legal director Deborah Jeon.
"This is especially true for highway stops, since many police departments - including the Maryland State Police - record the stops themselves, thus negating any possibility that the officer would reasonably believe the conversation to be private."
If convicted Graber can receive up to 16 years in prison, and an important milestone in the erosion of American rights will have been passed. Increasing numbers of states are making it illegal to record the police performing their duties and the ACLU fears worse is to come.
"This prosecution by the Maryland State Police and Harford County State's Attorney is profoundly dangerous, and seems meant to intimidate people from making a record of what public officials do," said David Rocah, staff attorney at the ACLU of Maryland.
"It is hard to imagine anything more antithetical to a democracy than for the government to tell its citizens that they do not have the right to record what government officials say or do or how they behave."
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