Bill protecting those who film police moves through TX Legislature
By Martin Hill
May 1, 2013

A proposed bill introduced in the Texas State legislature would protect those who film police in public and would prohibit a person from being prosecuted if they refuse to stop filming at the command of an officer. SB 897, known as the "Freedom to Film Act," also provides attorneys fees to the plaintiff in the case of civil lawsuits for false arrest, which the bill analysis surmises would be 'rare'. In addition, the bill "provides that sovereign immunity to suit and liability is waived. This an important provision, since so-called "sovereign immunity" is the first line of defense that police always use when accused violating people's civil rights under color of law.

Authored by Republican State Senator Craig Estes, the bill was originally filed on 2/27/13. Democrat Senator Royce West is listed as having signed on as a Coauthor on 4/15/13. The text of the bill, a mere three pages, can be found here, and an official analysis here. The latest action on the bill was April 29, when it was "Considered in public hearing," had "Testimony taken in committee", and was "Left pending in committee."

Estes, first elected to the State Senate in 2001, serves as the "the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security." He also "authored and passed SB 18, the landmark Eminent Domain legislation that protects the private property rights of Texas landowners" in 2011. On his personal website, Senator Estes states "I am reminded of the words of Thomas Jefferson that a government big enough to give us everything we want, is powerful enough to take away everything we have."

Estes March 4th press release stated in part, "In recent years, as more and more people have started carrying smartphones, there has been a disturbing trend nationwide of citizens being harassed by law enforcement for filming, photographing, and recording law enforcement officers. Unfortunately, multiple incidents have occurred in Texas where citizens were told to stop filming the police, even though filming the police is perfectly legal. SB 897 seeks to clarify that a citizen is perfectly within their legal right to film police officers during the course of their normal duties. Specifically, if a citizen is charged with interference with public duties, failure to obey the police, or assaulting an officer and is subsequently acquitted, the citizen may recover the costs of defending the frivolous charges. My hope is that this bill will cause our police departments to think twice before arresting and charging a person who is doing nothing more than filming the police," Estes said. "The police are public servants, so they should not be doing anything that they would not want caught on film."

Another press release issued by Estes on April 17th involves a recent case and reaffirms the importance of his bill:

Texas veteran releases video documenting his illegal arrest - Freedom to Film Act by Estes confirms the legality of filming the police
Austin - Army Master Sergeant. C.J. Grisham, a decorated war veteran, was recently arrested in Temple, Texas while on a hike with his 15-year old son trying to help him earn a Boy Scout merit badge. Yesterday, Grisham released a video of the incident, which shows police mistreating Grisham and accusing him of "rudely displaying" a weapon. Sgt. Grisham was eventually charged with resisting arrest. The video was taken by Grisham's son and clearly shows that Grisham did not resist arrest. Police later reduced the charges to "interfering with a peace officer while performing a duty", which is a Class B misdemeanor.
"Stories like these are why I have filed SB 897, which makes it clear that Texans have a right to film police in the performance of their duties," Estes said. "Fortunately in this case, Sgt. Grisham was able to document the incident and the proof is on his side."

A fiscal note from the Legislative Budget Board dated April 28, 2013 states in part,
"The bill would amend the Transportation Code, Chapter 542 to provide that a person does not violate the law if the police officer's order with which the person failed or refused to follow was to cease filming, recording, photographing, documenting, or observing a police officer while the officer was engaged in performance of official duties. The bill also makes this action a defense to a charge of interference with public duties."
The bill would amend the Civil Practice and Remedies Code to permit a person to recover attorney's fees incurred with the underlying prosecution and three times the person's actual damages arising from damage by a peace officer to any recording equipment in a civil suit against the governmental employer. Changes made by the bill would apply only to prosecution of an offense on or after the effective date of the bill. The bill takes effect September 1, 2013.
The Office of Court Administration anticipates that the number of civil lawsuits for retaliatory prosecution cases should be small and any costs would be absorbed by the state judiciary's existing resources...Local governments will be adversely affected by the costs associated with defending and possibly losing a retaliatory prosecution case. However, because the number of cases is anticipated to be small, any fiscal impact is not anticipated to be significant."

Below are a few relevant aspects of SB 897 and some key excerpts from our Filming Cops Archive Page:

Sec. 112.002. LIABILITY FOR CERTAIN RETALIATORY PROSECUTIONS. (a) Authorizes a person who is prosecuted for an offense ... to recover in a civil action against the governmental unit that employed any peace officer who accused the person of the offense of which the person was acquitted if the person shows by a preponderance of the evidence that:
(1) the person was filming, recording, photographing, documenting, or observing the peace officer; and
(2) the peace officer's accusation was made in retaliation for the person's act of filming, recording, photographing, or observing the peace officer.

Sec. 112.004. SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY WAIVED. Provides that sovereign immunity to suit and liability is waived

SECTION 3. Amends Section 542.501, Transportation Code, as follows:
Sec. 542.501. OBEDIENCE REQUIRED TO POLICE OFFICERS AND TO SCHOOL CROSSING GUARDS. (a) Creates this subsection from existing text and makes no further change to this subsection.
(b) Provides that Subsection (a)(1) (relating to prohibiting a person from willfully failing or refusing to comply with a lawful order or direction of a police officer or school crossing guard) does not apply to an order or direction to cease filming, recording, photographing, documenting, or observing a police officer while the officer is engaged in the performance of official duties."

For those of you who may be confused about our right to film on-duty police officers, here are two letters from the U.S. Department of Justice: One from 5/14/12 and a more recent one from 3/4/13.
Case 8:12-cv-03592-JFM Document 15 Filed 03/04/13 Page 1 of 13
MANNIE GARCIA, Plaintiff, v. MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND, et al., Defendants.

"The United States addressed the central questions raised in this case - whether individuals have a First Amendment right to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties, and whether officers violate individuals' Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they seize such recordings without a warrant or due process - in a Statement of Interest filed in Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Dept., et al., No. 1:11-cv-02888 (D. Md.), attached here as Exhibit A.1 Here, as there, the United States urges the Court to answer both of those questions in the affirmative.

"This case raises questions that the United States did not address directly in Sharp, the answers to which are critical to ensuring that the constitutional rights at issue in that case are upheld. First, the United States urges the Court to find that both the First and Fourth Amendments protect an individual who peacefully photographs police activity on a public street, if officers arrest the individual and seize the camera of that individual for that activity. Second, the United States is concerned that discretionary charges, such as disorderly conduct, loitering, disturbing the peace, and resisting arrest, are all too easily used to curtail expressive conduct or retaliate against individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights. The United States believes that courts should view such charges skeptically to ensure that individuals' First Amendment rights are protected. Core First Amendment conduct, such as recording a police officer performing duties on a public street, cannot be the sole basis for such charges. Third, the First Amendment right to record police officers performing public duties extends to both the public and members of the media, and the Court should not make a distinction between the public's and the media's rights to record here. The derogation of these rights erodes public confidence in our police departments, decreases the accountability of our governmental officers, and conflicts with the liberties that the Constitution was designed to uphold."

DOJ RULES: 'It Is Legal To Photograph And Film The Police' 3/15/13
'It is settled law that citizens have the right to record police.'

Here is a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division dated May 14, 2012 outlining the "individuals' right to record police activity":

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Right to Film Police, Even in Illinois November 26, 2012

U.S. Department of Justice Slaps Baltimore Police Over Right to Record Issue 5/16/12

First Circuit Court of Appeals Rules that Citizens Can Videotape Police

"On Friday, August 26, 2011, the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which is New England's highest federal court just below the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled that citizens are allowed to videotape law officials while they conduct official duties."

Federal Courts Rule it is Not Illegal to Film Police 9/1/11

"This specific case in question was Simon Glik vs.The City of Boston (and several police officers), in which a teenage Simon Gilk was arrested after videotaping Boston Police abusing a homeless man. While Mr. Gilk was not interfering with the police, he was arrested on wiretapping charges."

Appeals Court Rules It Is Not Illegal To Film Police

"The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles [of protected First Amendment activity].," said the Court. "Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs," stated the ruling, adding that this has been the case all along, and that the right to film police officers is not just restricted to the press.

Here is the text of the Glik ruling:

For those of you pushing the propaganda that filming police is "wiretapping", that is bogus too:
Federal Appeals Court Rejects Illinois' Eavesdropping Law As Likely Violating The First Amendment

Here is another story of a woman who was acquitted of 'eavesdropping' after she filmed cops in Chicago:
Woman who recorded cops acquitted of felony eavesdropping charges 8-25-11

Other good links of people who film police:

You've gotta see this: Fed up with cops like no other: "Officer Scaredy Pants" 7/31/12. Wow.

CarloS Miller's Excellent site: Photography Is Not A Crime

This story is about an activist in Michigan who films government corruption and police. He filmed a cop not wearing his seatbelt, and they tried to put him in jail for it. He beat the case.
Michigan prosecutor targets activist who films police February 14, 2013 [Featured on]

This is the excellent channel of a libertarian Free-State project guy in New Hampshire: Ridley Report

Antonio Buehler of Austin, TX: Peaceful Streets Project

MUST SEE Channel: Terry Bressi of Arizona is an expert. He recently won a lawsuit settlement for over $250,000 from the feds, whom he sued. CheckpointUSA.Org

See the First Amendment Center's phtography section and article The right to photograph: Why police can't call the shots. Appeals Court Rules It Is Not Illegal To Film Police.

The Brett Darrow Case
Brett Darrow is a 20 year old from St. George Missouri, who decided to mount a video camera in his car after getting some traffic tickets. Watch the bizzare series of events that unfolds in September 2007 when Brett politely invokes his God given rights to privacy and Constitutional protections. Sgt. James Kuehnlein became outraged and began screaming like a lunatic, berating and threatening Darrow, saying he would find '9 different charges' to lock him up on. Darrow later posted the video online where it got international attention, and Sgt. Kuehnlein was promptly fired. Darrow had an eerily similar incident happen to him in December 2006, when he politely invoked his rights and told a cop at a checkpoint that he did not want to discuss his personal life. Both these are must-see videos. Kudos to Brett Darrow for standing up for his unalienable rights and privacy. We can all learn from him.


FULL VIDEO of the 2006 incident:
Full Story HERE

Here are some of my own favorite videos of filming police:

Motorist puts police in their place at suspicionless internal checkpoint 12/2/12 [Must see video- Featured on].

This article and video shows how two aggressive cops try (unsuccessfully) to intimidate a female motorist into giving up her rights: Lunatic CHP cops go berzerk as female motorist successfully demands her rights under CA Vehicle code (3/22/13) [Featured on , Economic Policy Journal, From the Trenches World Report , The Daily Paul (most popular of the day),, and Numerous CHP offices from around the satte visited the article. It was also featured on a private CHP forum.]

Lunatic CHP cops go berzerk as female motorist successfully demands

The companion article and video Obnoxious CHP cop tries to make people stop filming him was Headlined on and made it to the most viewed list within moments. :-)]

Obnoxious CHP cop tries to make people stop filming him

This is the story of a guy who most certainly would have been in jail for a long time, if his friend hadn't recorded the incident to show to a jury:
Man who hit cop in self-defense is acquitted, with help of friend's video footage March 28, 2013 [Featured on , and]

This was another loon cop who tried to tell me I couldn't film on a public street. What is wrong with these people?
Stockton is bankrupt, but their police continue trying to stop people from filming in public April 2, 2013
Cop Attempts to stop person from filming on public street [Featured on , Red Pill News and Seznam novinek.]

Stockton, CA cop tells person not to film police on a public street

Here is the latest, at a suspicionless border checkpoint in Laredo Texas:

Cop at Suspicionless Checkpoint Starts Barking Orders, But Then Flees from Camera
Creepy DHS Supervisor tries to open vehicle door when motorist asks officer's name 4-17-13 [Featured on WhatReallyHappened, Economic Policy Journal, , , battlefourtimes, and many others.]

DontWakeMeUp.Org Launched As Civil Rights Lawsuit Proceeds Against Texas Troopers 4/16/13
Trooper facing civil suit denies threatening motorist with arrest, despite being recorded [Featured on]

Martin Hill is a Catholic paleoconservative and civil rights advocate. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Daily News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Contra Costa Times, Pasadena Star News, Silicon Valley Mercury News, Long Beach Press Telegram, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, L.A. Harbor Daily Breeze, Whittier Daily News,, WhatReallyHappened, Infowars, PrisonPlanet, Economic Policy Journal, FreedomsPhoenix, Veterans Today,, The Wayne Madsen Report,, Rense,,, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Jonathan Turley blog, National Motorists Association,, Republic Broadcasting Network, WorldNetDaily, Dr. Kevin Barret's Truth Jihad radio show, The Orange County Register, KNBC4 Los Angeles, Los Angeles Catholic Lay Mission Newspaper, KFI 640, The Press Enterprise, Redlands Daily Facts, BlackBoxVoting, Strike-The-Root, David Icke, and many others. Archives can be found at and DontWakeMeUp.Org.


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NOTE: Visit our new website DontWakeMeUp.Org - Trucker's Civil Rights for more information on the Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit filed against the Texas Troopers for illegally demanding ID. You can also join the mailing list for updates.

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