Recording laws in Iowa explained - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Recording laws in Iowa explained

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The power of cellphone video has a spotlight on suspected abuses of authority by police.

Now that so many of us have cellphones, more people are taking their own videos.

Tom Frerichs is a criminal defense attorney who specializes in civil rights cases.

He thinks it's a good idea for people to record police activity.

"Any kind of conversation, as long as one party knows they're being recorded is generally legal in Iowa. Where you cross the line is if you're using the cell phone or camera in a way that's interfering with the officer trying to do his job," said Frerichs.

Cedar Falls police chief Jeff Olson agrees.

He says, especially with police body cams and patrol car cameras, more video is better.

"We've actually had a lot of people record activity. You look at the late night activity, maybe in the bar area here. Wherever there's officers around, it's very common for them to see people recording so the officers are pretty used to it," said Olson.

The recording laws in Iowa are such that you can record anything in plain view on public property.

On private property, it's up to the property or business owner to allow it.

Police can take your phone or camera in extreme cases, like a life-threatening situation.

In all other cases, they would need a warrant.

If they seize your camera or cell phone, they can't delete your photos or video.

They can also ask you to stop to recording, but will have to put up with any public pressure that comes later.

"The key in recording seems simple. Don't get in the officers face and treat them with respect."

"Turn it on, be polite and answer their questions, the tape will speak for itself," said Frerichs.

Frerichs says many times, audio recordings are just as effective as video recordings to get a sense of what happened.

He and Olson say the legal system expects there to be video evidence in many cases, so the more the better.

If you're convicted of using your camera illegally, it's a Serious Misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to a $7,500 fine.

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