Law Offices of Gabriel H. Avina

Los Angeles Personal Injury and Criminal Defense Lawyers


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Our First Amendment Right to Record Police Officers

In the last couple years, issues of whether individuals have a constitutional right record police officers, and whether the police may prevent such recordings or later destroy recordings, has become increasingly prominent.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division has affirmed the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth  Amendment rights of citizens to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties. In an opinion letter issued on May 14, 2012  in regard to the ongoing litigation in Sharp v.  Baltimore City Police Department, the DOJ stated that the individual right to record officers who are publicly executing their duties is a First Amendment right. Relying on Glik v. Cunniffe, the DOJ letter states “Recording governmental officers engaged in public duties is a form of speech through which private individuals may gather and disseminate information of public concern, including the conduct of law enforcement officers.” (DOJ letter, page 2.)

Also in this letter, the DOJ and set forth recommendations for police policies to give law enforcement officers clear guidelines to allow them to perform their duties without violating this right. According to the DOJ opinion letter, with regard to the recordings of private citizens, police policies should:

  • Affirmatively state that individuals have a First Amendment right to record police officers; 
  • Include examples of the places where individuals can lawfully record police activity, for example individuals not only have the right to record in  public parks and public spaces (like sidewalks, streets and locations of public protests,) but also the right to record on private property where an individual has  a right to be present (including, but not limited to his or her home);
  • Include examples of the type of police activity that may be recorded;
  • Advise officers that they "may not  threaten, intimidate, or otherwise discourage an individual from recording police officer enforcement activity or intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices" (DOJ letter, page 5);
  • Instruct officers that they must not search and seize a camera or recording device without a warrant, except  in limited circumstances (DOJ letter, page 5);
  • Instruct officers that even if a warrantless seizure of a camera or recording device is permitted (because there is probable cause to believe that the device holds a contraband or evidence of a crime, there is a exigency or exception to the warrant requirement, and seizure is for a limited time period), there can be no search of the recording device without a warrant (DOJ letter, page 9).
  • Prohibit officers from "destroying recording devices or cameras and deleting recordings or photographs under any circumstances"(DOJ letter, page 5);
  • Define and provide examples for the narrow limitations of the First Amendment right to record: "A person may record public police activity unless the person engaged in actions that jeopardize the safety of the officer, the suspect, of others in the vicinity, violate the law, or incite others to violate the law" (DOJ letter, page 6).
  • Include other provisions to clarify the role of the officer's supervisor, the guidelines for consent to searches, seizures under exigent circumstances, among other things.

Read the rest of the May 14, 2012 DOJ opinion letter from Sharp v.  Baltimore City Police Department for more information. This is an area of law that will continue to develop.

In addition, here is some background information on the litigation Sharp v.  Baltimore City Police Department. On May 15, 2010, Christopher Sharp recorded his friends' violent police encounter at the Preakness with his cellphone, and the Baltimore police seized and searched the phone. Christopher Sharp filed against a complaint the Baltimore Police Department, and this litigation is ongoing.

If you need legal representation call (323)299-1664 or email to set up a FREE CONSULTATION with Los Angeles attorney Gabriel H. Avina.

*For more information see our Criminal Defense page.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

California Jury Instructions are a Free Online Legal Resource

If you are involved in civil or criminal case, Los Angeles lawyer Gabriel H. Avina recommends the California Jury Instructions as a good and FREE resource to help you understand the law. The jury instruction forms are composed by the Judicial Council of California to be a concise and plain language description of the law as applied to all types of civil and criminal cases. The court uses these jury instruction forms as templates to instruct each jury before deliberation on the law as applied to the case that jury heard.

Since these jury instruction forms are a plain language description of the issues that a jury ultimately decides, they are a good reference to understand the legal and factual issues that are important to your case. Judges and attorneys routinely use these forms as a reference 
for both civil and criminal cases.

These forms are also a rich legal resource because below the template instructions there are also notes on “Directions for Use” and “Sources and Authority,” which explain how the instructions should be understood and used, as well as references to the related statutes and case law.

The Jury Instruction Forms from Judicial Council of Californian can be found FREE online on the California Courts website.

The civil jury instructions include forms that cover personal injury topics for car accidents, motorcycle accidents, pain and suffering, and negligence, among other topics. These civil forms also include topics in contract law, insurance law, discrimination law , civil rights, damages and more. The criminal jury instructions cover felony criminal cases and misdemeanor criminal cases, including Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

If you need legal representation call (323)299-1664 or email to set up a FREE CONSULTATION with Los Angeles attorney Gabriel H. Avina.

*For more information see our Criminal Defense page.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer

Los Angeles lawyer Gabriel H. Avina is experienced in practicing personal injury law and can help you successfully litigate or settle your personal injury case, including injuries that result from any of the following:

car accident
truck accident
motorcycle accident
pedestrian accident
bicycle accident

As soon as an accident happens, you should keep your rights in mind. Even an injury that does not seem bad immediately after the accident, can later develop into a more serious injury than you could have anticipated. According to Los Angeles lawyer Gabriel H. Avina, starting immediately after an accident, there are a number of steps you can take to preserve your personal injury claim:

1. As required in all traffic accidents, exchange information with the other parties involved in the accident.
2. Use a cellphone or other camera to take photos to document your injuries or property damage.
3. Consult a doctor.
4. Consult an attorney to get personalized advice that specifically fits the facts of your accident and your personal injury claim.

Gabriel H. Avina not only has helped numerous clients involved in auto accidents successfully recover so that they are compensated for their personal injuries, but he has litigated his own personal injury. Gabriel understands the challenges and concerns that arise as both a personal injury lawyer and a personal injury plaintiff.

Call (323)299-1664 or email to set up a free consultation with Los Angeles personal injury attorney Gabriel H. Avina.