Articles Posted in Law Enforcement

Legality of Recording Police Officers in Michigan

Recent stories of police misconduct have led to many citizens recording police activity. They often do so to prove the police officer acted inappropriately. But is it legal?

The short answer is yes, but it depends on where the conversation or activity is taking place. In Michigan, there are two laws that deal with the recording of any conversation or activity, even those involving the police. The first is a wiretapping law stating it is illegal to willfully or maliciously wiretap an electronic device including a smartphone or computer to record activity or a conversation. This is a felony that carries a sentence of up to two years in prison and/or a fine of $1,000 but it is not the type of recording most people consider when they record the police.

These situations typically include videotaping or recording a police officer dealing with a member of the public. And this would fall under Michigan’s eavesdropping law. Under this law it is illegal for any person to record a private conversation or use a device that can help them listen in on a private conversation taking place between other people. This is also a felony that could carry a sentence of up to two years in prison, and/or a fine of $2,000. But the key word within this statute is private.

What are the Mandatory and Permissive Terms and Conditions of Probation in Michigan?

When thinking about the mandatory terms and conditions of probation it’s important to first understand that, according to Michigan Compiled Laws, section 771.4, the granting of probation is a matter of grace.  In other words, probation is a privilege, not a right.

Furthermore, this legislative idea of probation being a matter “grace” extended to you by the court is further expressed in Michigan Compiled Laws, section 771.1, which indicates that to be placed on probation, the court must first determine that you are not likely to again engage in any offensive or criminal conduct.  Additionally, the court must believe that the public good does not require that you “suffer the penalty imposed by law,” meaning the public good does not require the court to sentence you to jail or prison.

If you are “lucky” enough to be given a term of probation, Michigan Compiled Laws 771.3 sets forth all of the mandatory conditions of probation.  This list includes the following:

Class Action Lawsuit Proceeds Against Mug Shot Websites

Late September, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman in Chicago did not dismiss a novel class action lawsuit alleging that Mugshots.com purposefully does not update or amend incorrect records which also gives incentives for those who are arrested to pay excessive fees to companion mugshot removal service website, Unpublisharrest.com, to have unflattering mug shot photos removed.

Two of the leading class plaintiffs are former Illinois inmates and a third is a Florida resident who claims that he was wrongly arrested because police confused him for a person with the same name. All contend that they cannot get jobs because their photos are posted on Mugshots.com.

The judge allowed plaintiffs’ allegations to stand that the two sites infringed upon plaintiffs’ right of publicity since the mugshots were used as advertisements to draw in readers and garner revenue for Unpublisharrest.com, the related photo removal service.

Our country was founded on the principle of limited government.  This means that police officers are supposed to be limited in their ability to do things like search your home, stop and frisk you on the street or even stop your car.  The question is limited by whom?  And the answer is, limited by judges.

The judges are members of the judicial branch of government, while the police are members of the executive.  Thus, when judges limit the power of the police they are doing what the constitution says they are supposed to do.  But when they expand the power of the police, they are abnegating their constitutional role.

This is a problem at all levels of government, but is a gigantic problem when we are talking about the court of final authority, the Supreme Court.  That’s why it’s so significant when a Supreme Court Justice complains that the United States Supreme Court is bending the rules to favor the police and prosecutors.

In every case, the answer to this question is the same – it is an unqualified unequivocal NO!

The way this issue usually comes up in my practice is when a client or potential client calls my office and says that they received a call from police asking them to come to the station to “answer a few questions,” what should I do?

First of all, let’s remember that words mean things, and the cops know what words to use.  They will ask you to come down for an interview.  What they really want to do is interrogate you.  If they were asking you to come down for an interrogation then how would you answer?

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