Affirmative Action/Quotas/Civil Rights/Hate Crime Surveillance Laws


I thank you in advance for answering my question. Is it legal for me to record a hate crime occuring in a public place if I witness it happening. Do I need to inform the perpetrators that they are being recorded on my phone. This is so that I can turn in my recording to the authorities later. Would I be able to post it on the web, such as You Tube, without being sued?
Thank you so much for your answer.


Please note that I an not permitted to provide specific legal advice in this forum.  For that, you would need to speak with an attorney licensed in your State.

That said, generally speaking the First Amendment protects the right to record matters in a public area where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.  Unfortunately, this is not as clear cut as one might hope.  There have been numerous cases where courts have had to decide whether wiretap laws that protect people from being recorded without their knowledge violate the First Amendment rights of the person who wants to make this information known.  For the most part, the courts have found that the First Amendment trumps the law, but not in every case.  

The sticking points for some people are whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g. two people whispering on a public street corner might reasonably believe no one is hearing them, even though a high tech microphone might pick up their conversation), also whether the recording is for political or commercial purposes (i.e. bringing an issue to light is protected, but making a video for profit might not be).  

As I said, generally the courts have been favoring recordings taken in public places, especially if they reveal wrong doing.  But even if you can win a case, that is no guarantee that someone won't try to sue you anyway.

Sorry I cannot give a more definitive answer, but hope it helps you understand the situation.

- Mike

Affirmative Action/Quotas/Civil Rights

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Michael Troy


I will answer questions relating to discrimination law or the 14th Amendment, sexual harassment, etc. I can`t give specific legal advice involving specific cases you might have.


I have worked as an attorney in this area, including several landmark cases involving racial preferences (such as Hopwood v. Texas, University of Michigan v. Gratz and UM v. Grutter).

Former Attorney with the Center for Individual Rights.

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JD from University of Michigan Law School

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