Federal courts confirm you have a First Amendment right to police livestreams

Yes, you are well within your First Amendment rights to livestream video of police officers in action. The US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit affirmed in a ruling released this week.

It really shouldn’t have been a question. Courts have, on several occasions, upheld the right of police officers to photograph or videotape.

But police officers in Winterville, North Carolina, insist that live streaming that video on social media is different. During a 2018 traffic stop — which car passenger Dijon Sharp began sharing on Facebook Live — an officer tried to take Sharp’s phone away, calling it an “officer safety issue.” Another officer told Sharpe, “In the future, if you’re on Facebook Live, your phone is going to be taken away from you…and if you don’t want to give up your phone, you’re going to go to jail.”

Sharp sued. And a US District Court ruled against him, writing that “an individual’s right under the First Amendment to record a traffic stop” and “broadcast a traffic stop real-time from within a stopped vehicle” was “not clearly established.” This meant that the officers involved were entitled to qualified immunity.

Sharpe then took the case to a federal appeals court, where a group of civil liberties groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Institute for Justice, the Cato Institute and the National Police Accountability Project supported his position.

This time the court sided with Sharp.

Winterville “The accused failed to establish that The policy of livestreaming is well grounded, and made according to the strong government interests that survive the First Amendment test,” The court held in a Tuesday decision written by Judge Julius N. Richardson. “We therefore vacate the district court’s order The policy is declared constitutional and remanded for further proceedings.”

“Making and disseminating information is protected speech under the First Amendment,” Richardson noted:

And other courts have consistently recognized that these principles extend the First Amendment to cover recordings—especially when the information implicates matters of public interest, such as police encounters…

We agreed. Recorded police encounters generate information that contributes to discussions of public affairs. So livestreaming spreads that information, often creating its own record. Thus we hold that live streaming police traffic stops is speech protected by the First Amendment.

Even so, the Winterville police officers are still entitled to qualified immunity, the court said. Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, police officers are only open to personal liability if they commit a violation clearly established Rights that are protected by the Constitution. But the legality of the livestreaming traffic stop was not clearly established, the judges said.


“The state of our union is bad.” by yesterday Roundup, we covered President Joe Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address and his strange quest to micromanage the pettiness of American travel. since then, because A half-dozen published posts addressing Biden’s comments and various other aspects of the proposal.

“The state of our union is bad,” he wrote because Editor at Large Matt Welch, a big-picture view of Biden’s speech. “The bipartisan (if vociferous!) embrace of big-government nationalism ensures that our populist moment won’t end anytime soon.”

other because Writers tackled Biden’s comments on immigration, schooling, policing and more. Get them out:

• Biden’s foreign policy is unconventional

• The police who killed Tyre Nichols could be convicted of murder and still Get qualified immunity

• Biden’s claims about universal pre-K are malarkey

• Biden’s proposed assault weapons ban is unconstitutional, unfeasible and ineffective

• Biden’s anti-vaping policies undermine cancer moonshot

• Calls to ‘close borders’ in response to fentanyl deaths are misguided

Bonus: Joe Lancaster looks at the GOP rebuttal of Biden’s speech, which was “light on policy and heavy on accusations.”

free mind

On vanity license plates, selective censorship, and Tennesseans’ love of DEEZNTS:

The case in question involved a Nashville woman, Leah Gilliam, whose vanity plate—69PWNDU—was deemed unlawfully offensive by the Tennessee Department of Revenue. The lawyer who brought the case here.

free market

Biden’s gun rights in America. today, because Editor at large Nick Gillespie, because Senior Editor Jacob Sulam, and Heritage Foundation Legal Fellow Amy Sawyer will discuss gun rights and gun violence in Biden’s America directly.

Biden is certainly not a fan of gun rights. But Gillespie notes that a series of court decisions and policy changes “have expanded Second Amendment rights over the past several decades.” So are gun rights really growing or shrinking these days? And what about gun violence?

Tune in to YouTube starting at 1pm ET to hear their discussion.

Quick hit

• “The Labor Department’s internal watchdog has identified nearly $30 billion more in pandemic unemployment benefits that were erroneously sent than previously estimated,” reports Politico. This brings the total amount of erroneous payments to about $191 billion.

• The House Oversight Committee is fighting Twitter censorship the wrong way, writes Robbie Sove. “The approach taken by the Republican House majority — hauling tech executives before Congress and attacking them for succumbing to government pressure — is both antithetical to the goal of protecting free speech online, as well as a stark example of what Republican members of Congress claim to oppose.”