Boston, MA - In a case which sought to clarify laws surrounding the legality of secretly recording police and other government officials, a federal judge ruled that a Massachusetts law which was meant to prohibit such undisclosed recordings was unconstitutional. The judge indicated that the such an action is protected under the First Amendment.
Though it was already legal to blatantly record police in public, following a high-profile case in 2007 in which a photographer was held for "wiretapping" after recording an arrest on Boston Common, this case revolves around the discrete recording of audio as it pertains to Massachusetts government officials. The judge wrote in his decision, "secret audio recording of government officials, including law enforcement officials, performing their duties in public is protected by the First Amendment, subject only to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions."
In fact, the case was born from two defendants from Jamaica Plain who, according to court records, had been openly recording area police a combined 44 times. K. Eric Martin and Rene Perez were allegedly recording police interactions in the context of traffic and pedestrian stops and protests.
As of now, even Boston Police training modules include a video of two potential situations of citizens recording their actions. The training video indicates that the individual openly recording the police is in no violation of the law, but that instance of a citizen secretly recording them is actually illegal. This falls under Section 99, the law in question.
It is likely that this training and enforcement will now have to change.