Woman records her own arrest, then charged with wiretapping

Woman accused of disorderly conduct and carrying an open container gets an added charge after allegedly secretly recording her arrest on her phone.

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What if a phone is your only witness? MacMixing/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When you get arrested by the police, there's often the sense that power is not on your side.

This, quite naturally, might make your version of events less persuasive than that of the authorities.

Increasingly, Americans have begun to use their cell phones in order to preserve their own evidence of what might have occurred.

In the latest example, a woman was arrested in Massachusetts for alleged disorderly conduct and possession of an open container of alcohol.

As the Springfield Republican reported, police say the woman pressed the record function on her phone and hid it in her purse.

Having arrested her, the police say they found the phone, inspected it, and have now reportedly charged Karen Dziewit, 24, of Chicopee, Mass., with unlawful wiretapping.

Massachusetts is a two-party state. Both parties to a recording must know that the recording is taking place. (California is the same, something opponents of Donald Sterling might ponder.)

However, Massachusetts is also the home of the 2011 case Glik vs. Cunniffe. This decision declared that a private citizen has the right to record the activities -- both video and audio recording -- of a public official in the course of his or her duties, as long as those activities are in a public place.

Indeed, in this case, it was ruled that an arrest for wiretapping is a violation of both the First and Fourth Amendments.

This isn't the first time that police have attempted to charge someone recording them in the line of duty.

In February, a Florida woman in a routine traffic stop was arrested by the officer when he realized that she was recording their conversation.

Though the officer allegedly accused her of committing a felony and put her in jail, no charges were ever filed. She is now suing the Broward County police department.

Again in Florida last month, a man was charged with resisting arrest without violence after filming police officers arrest another man.

Perhaps the police might consider the wise words of Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. You know, the ones along the lines of "if you have nothing to hide."

Whatever the realities of this arrest, charging a private citizen with wiretapping inevitably suggests that the police don't want it to be known how they protect and serve private citizens.

 

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