A New York State trooper threatened to have a driver arrested for filming their interactions after the driver asked a series of questions to which he didn’t seem to get any answers. According to “The Raw Story,” John Houghtaling was pulled over allegedly for a traffic violation and turned the camera on his phone on to film, which annoyed the officer. The interaction went as follows:
“Put the phone down,” the trooper told Houghtaling.
Houghtaling asked, “Why?” and then said, “Am I not allowed to record, officer?”
The officer asked him several times to open his window, which the video shows was clearly already partially open.
After asking the trooper for his badge number, to which the officer responded with, “Open your window,” once again, Houghtaling asked, “Am I being detained?”
The officer claimed he stopped Houghtaling for a traffic violation and requested Houghtaling’s license and registration.
Houghtaling replied with, “I will give you my license and registration. Let me throw this cigarette out here.”
The officer then made a comment about the videotaping.
“How about if I see you post this on Youtube, I’ll find a way for the D.A.’s office to arrest you,” said the trooper.
“Is it illegal to record police officers?” Houghtaling replied.
“When I tell you to put the phone down and you disregard what I’m telling you, yes, it is,” said the officer.
Generally, it’s legal to record the police in public places in the state of New York, so long as you’re not interfering with police activity. There’s nothing in Houghtaling’s video to suggest that his filming interfered with the traffic stop. His car is his private property, and the officer is outside, but not on someone else’s private property. The interference came from the officer’s apparent offense at being filmed.
Also, New York doesn’t have a dual-consent wiretapping law, so only one party needs to consent to record. That means that, so long as the officer isn’t on someone else’s private property (e.g., in someone’s yard or at their front door), recording them is legal, even if they don’t consent.
Basically, this officer is trying to intimidate Houghtaling into turning his camera off. That seems to be a fairly common tactic among police officers who are angry that someone dares to film them doing their jobs.
When Houghtaling asked if he could ask why he was pulled over, the trooper said, “Yes, because your exhaust is extremely loud in this car, that’s why you’re being stopped.”
The officer then became a little belligerent, sarcastically saying, “You don’t have an answer to that one? That’s a legitimate violation that I’m stopping you for. What is your answer to that?”
Then the officer said, “Can you get the phone out of my face? I’m trying to talk to you, not the phone.”
“Is it illegal to record?” asked Houghtaling.
After more exchange, none of which answers that question, the officer said, “I asked you a question before, of what is your issue with always videotaping?”
Houghtaling replied, “Am I legally obligated to answer that?”
“You’re obligated because I asked you to. That’s why,” the angry officer replied before stalking off.
Houghtaling never got belligerent with the officer, and never resisted anything except turning his phone off. He did ask some legitimate questions, though. Unfortunately, this officer, like some others, seems to be banking on the idea that Houghtaling doesn’t know the law. Or perhaps he doesn’t know the law himself and believes the law says people must comply with any request he makes. Either way, his end goal is to intimidate Houghtaling into putting his camera away.
On the video, itself, which he did post to YouTube, Houghtaling says:
“The real reason for me being pulled over was the fact that I’ve been known by their organization to film all of my interactions with police.”
While that might seem like he’s being paranoid, the exchange with this particular officer suggests that he just might be right to feel that way. Some officers really get upset with the idea of being filmed. That’s why there’s some resistance to the idea of body cameras. This officer’s exchange with Houghtaling is just ridiculous.
Watch the entire exchange below:
Featured image: via screengrab