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Police Pay $50K to Settle Wrongful Arrest of Man Capturing Video of Another Arrest

In New York's Suffolk County, Thomas Demint has agreed to settle his wrongful arrest case against the local police department. The civil lawsuit, which made headlines back in late 2015, was resolved for only $50,000.

In May 2014, the 19-year-old Demint was standing a safe distance away from officers that were arresting two other individuals. Demint began video recording the incident, which was happening in public in plain view. After some time, police demanded Demint stop recording, then police arrested Demint for allegedly interfering with their other arrests, and an officer confiscated Demint's phone. When prosecutors determined Demint did nothing illegal, the charges were dropped. Demint, justifiably angry over the whole encounter, filed a civil rights lawsuit claiming he was falsely arrested.

Can You Video Record Police Encounters?

For the most part, it is perfectly legal to video record police encounters that occur in public. However, to avoid getting arrested, there are some hard limits that individuals should observe when recording police encounters:

  • Don't interfere with, or yell at, the officers;
  • Don't talk to the officers that are focused on doing their job;
  • Don't get in the way of officers; and
  • Listen to and obey officer instructions about where to stand.

While it is legal to video record police encounters, officers can be rather sensitive about being recorded. It is not too uncommon for officers to retaliate against individuals taking video. Commonly, officers will request that video recording stop at a crime scene or during a stop. If a person refuses, an officer can claim that the failure to comply was an obstruction of justice, refusal to cooperate, or some other arrestable offense, regardless of the truth.

How to Sue for Wrongful Arrest?

After a wrongful arrest, a person may be able to file a civil rights lawsuit against the police department and individual officers. Generally, these types of cases involve claims under 42 USC 1983, which prohibits government officials from violating an individual's constitutional rights. There may be additional claims as well depending on each state's particular civil rights statutes, as well as the specific facts of each case.

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