Md. judge says it’s OK to film cops

Dismissed the case of a motorcyclist who used a helmet camera to film a plainclothes trooper


By PoliceOne Staff

HARFORD COUNTY, Md. — A judge in Maryland has ruled that it is OK to film police officers while they do their job.

The judge dismissed the case of Anthony Graber, a motorcyclist who used a helmet camera to film a plainclothes trooper after being stopped for speeding. Graber then posted the video, which shows the officer approaching him with his gun drawn, to YouTube. The video quickly went viral online.

A few weeks later, a state’s attorney in Maryland charged Graber, who is a staff sergeant in the Maryland Air National Guard and a computer systems engineer, with violating the state’s wiretapping laws, according to the Washington Post.

The original intention of the law, which was passed in the 1970s, was to protect citizens from government intrusion. Graber faced up to 16 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

The judge’s decision in this case, according to the Baltimore Sun, hinged on whether police should have an expectation of privacy while on duty, to which the judge wrote:

"Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation. 'Sed quis custodiet ipsos cutodes' ("Who watches the watchmen?”)."

Graber was also charged with the possession of a “device primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of oral communications,” in reference to the helmet camera. The judge dismissed this charge as well, saying it would render illegal cell phones and other handheld recording devices used by many.

Graber still faces speeding charges.

Because it was a circuit court ruling, the decision is not binding on other judges. The ruling can still be appealed by the state’s attorney.

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