In the First, Third, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal, the right to record police officers going about their public duty has been enshrined as critical to the protections of the First Amendment. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, however, had maintained a hardline stance against the right to film police officers. Despite the weight of six other Courts of Appeal, the Tenth Circuit continued to insist that there was no “clearly established” right.
Now, suddenly, a recent case indicates the Tenth Circuit is close to fully joining its judicial peers by dropping its opposition to the right to record in the case of a self-identified journalist and blogger. On July 11th, the court ruled in Irizarry v. Yehia in favor of a right to record.
The incident in question occurred early in the morning of May 26, 2019, when blogger Abade Irizarry began filming a DUI traffic stop in Colorado. According to the ruling of the court, “Officer Ahmed Yehia arrived on the scene and stood in front of Mr. Irizarry, obstructing his filming of the stop. When Mr. Irizarry and a fellow journalist objected, Officer Yehia shined a flashlight into Mr. Irizarry's camera and then drove his police cruiser at the two journalists.”
PT1 welcomes the court’s adjustment on the right to record police activity, fundamental to the First Amendment and to Americans’ ability to protect themselves in court against potential police misconduct. The Tenth Circuit specifically cited the rulings of other Courts of Appeal, indicating that the right to record may be gaining traction, especially amid the public backlash against police misconduct in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.
According to the Tenth Circuit, the right is still “subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions.” But the court concluded: “Based on First Amendment principles and relevant precedents, we conclude there is a First Amendment right to film the police performing their duties in public.”
In a free society that holds authority accountable, that is as it should be.