Is it Legal in Virginia to Record the Police

Criminal Laws

Virginia does not have uniform standards for the use of law-enforcement technology, namely, the use of recording devices for drivers to record the police and vice versa. The state’s patchwork of laws governing when these devices can be used causes a great deal of confusion.

The ACLU issued a report in October 2015 advocating statewide standards. The proper use of recording mechanisms by a police department with appropriate safeguards can be beneficial by ensuring accountability; however, its misuse expands improper police surveillance.

The study, which looked at 59 body camera policies in Virginia, found great variances causing confusion as to what a resident’s rights actually are in these circumstances. In addition, most policies did not require the police to inform people they are being recorded, or let someone decline to be filmed. They also did not prohibit its use in someone’s house if the resident objected, nor did they prohibit filming protected First Amendment activities, such as peaceful protests.

The ACLU recommends statewide police policies that:

  • Prohibits surreptitious recording,
  • Requires the police to notify who is being recorded
  • Requires their use in certain situations, such as stops, searches, arrests, and hostile confrontations
  • Respect for private locations by turning off the camera
  • Specify how data is stored and used.

The pervasive use of smartphones now makes it easier than ever to record instances of wrongdoing by the police against the public. The law in Virginia allows the public to record the police if:

  • It is in public and
  • The person doing the recording does not hamper the work of the police.

If you or a family member is involved in a situation where your privacy was compromised by the police, please call us at 703-940-1590 for a free consultation.