A Harford County, Md. judge ruled Sept. 27 that it is lawful for a motorist to record a police traffic stop.
Anthony Graber faced wiretapping charges after recording a traffic stop and posting it to YouTube. He was cleared by Harford County Circuit Court Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr.
In his ruling, Plitt said public officials are to be held to the same scrutiny in public arenas as regular citizens. He 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.”
His decision was met with harsh criticism in the law enforcement community as police and prosecutors believe his decision infringes on the ability of officers to do their job. State’s Attorney Joseph Cassily, who filed the charges in April, told the Associated Press that the ruling “creates problems.”
However, David Rocah, Graber’s legal defense and staff attorney for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the charges never should’ve been brought.
“On the one hand, you could say there are no ramifications because the conduct was so perfectly legal and, in fact, constitutionally protected,” Rocah said. “On the other hand, the mere fact that the state police and the prosecutor brought the charges was an incredibly dangerous and irresponsible example of government abuse and overreach. If the charges had been allowed to stand it would’ve set a dangerous precedent.”
According to reports, Graber was pulled over by two state troopers on March 25 on Interstate 95. Graber had a video camera attached to his helmet, but when asked if he was recording, he denied it.
After the encounter was posted to YouTube, he was arrested and his home computer was confiscated.
Charges of negligent driving and reckless driving are still pending against Graber.