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Can you record a traffic stop in Alabama?

On Behalf of | Jul 4, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

In recent years, people have grown wary of interactions with the police – even for routine traffic stops. 

If you’re concerned about the abuse of official power, you may want to use your smartphone or dashcam to make sure that your interactions with an officer are fully documented. That way, if there’s a disagreement about what happened, you aren’t having to wager your credibility versus the officer’s credibility in court.

You generally have the right to record

Every state has taken a slightly different approach to the issue, but Alabama allows you to record your interactions with the police so long as:

  • You’re on public property or otherwise permitted: You enjoy a broad First Amendment right to record interactions with the police on public property. On private property, you still generally have the right to record unless such recording devices are prohibited by the owner. 
  • You are not interfering with the police officer’s official duties: If you’re a passenger in a vehicle or a bystander watching a traffic stop unfold, for example, you don’t want to get between the officer and the driver to get a better view of their interactions. That could be construed as interfering and lead to your arrest.

So, what happens if an officer tells you to stop recording? You have a choice to make: You can comply with their request, knowing that they don’t have the right to make that demand or you can keep recording and risk an unlawful arrest. Whatever you do, remain quietly respectful and don’t resist. If you are arrested for your actions, it’s far better to settle the issue in court than risk harm to yourself – or additional charges – by resisting arrest.