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    Update on Md. Traffic-Stop Taping and Wiretap Laws

    In March, Anthony Graber videotaped an encounter with a Maryland State Trooper in which Graber received a speeding ticket. A week later, he uploaded the video to YouTube. In April, Graber was charged with violating Maryland’s wiretapping laws because he filmed the public encounter with a police officer on the job. He could have been jailed for up to 16 years.

    Now, the Washington Post reports that a judge has dismissed the wiretapping charges against Graber (but he still faces traffic charges).

    One of the key legal questions facing Judge Emory A. [Plitt] Jr., was whether police performing their duties have an expectation of privacy. [Plitt] ruled that police have no expectation of privacy in their public, on-the-job communications.

    [Plitt] wrote: “Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation. ‘Sed quis custodiet ipsos cutodes’ (“Who watches the watchmen?”).”

    Graber was also charged with possessing a “device primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of oral communications” — referring to the video camera on his helmet. The judge disagreed with the prosecutor that the helmet cam was illegal, and concluded the state’s argument would render illegal “almost every cell phone, Blackberry, and every similar device, not to mention dictation equipment and other types of recording devices.” […]

    No word yet on whether the state’s attorney will try to appeal the decision.

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