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There has been an increase in private citizens, known as First Amendment Auditors, engaging in activities against local governments designed to provoke a response that violates the First Amendment. First Amendment audits typically involve an individual photographing or filming his or her surroundings from a public space, and is often categorized by its practitioners as activism and citizen journalism designed to test whether local government officials will uphold the auditor’s constitutional rights – including the right to photograph and video record in a public space. There is a growing consensus of federal Courts of Appeals holding that the First Amendment generally protects the rights of citizens to film or record public officials, including police officers, performing their duties in public. However, the right to film is not absolute, as it is subject to a reasonable time, place and manner restriction. It is important for local governments to understand the rights involved and how to distinguish protected behavior from unprotected behavior, so as to ensure these matters are appropriately handled by local government officials in order to limit potential liability.
Speaker: James Benjamin & Bambi Glenn