The Bad Lawyer has been lobbied for some time by friends, locally, and through the social network where his "blawg" ramblings are occasionally cross-posted to examine at the question of the prosecutions of citizens under state and local laws prohibiting citizens from recording law enforcement in the performance of their duties. Thus, if such laws had been on the books in California in 1991 it would have been a prosecutable crime to record the Rodney King beating. Which is probably the point of these laws.
The conflict arises from a March 5 stop by a plainclothes state trooper who pulled Graber over after watching him speed through traffic topping 100 mph and pass several cars on one wheel with his motorcycle. Graber had been wearing a camera attached to his helmet to record his ride.
Trooper J.D. Uhler jumped out of his unmarked car with his gun in his hand, but did not point it at Graber, as he ordered him to dismount, and he issued several citations. Five days later, after seeing the encounter —video and audio — posted on YouTube, state police obtained a search warrant and raided Graber's house. They seized his cameras and computers, and prosecutors later obtained a grand jury indictment charging the 24-year-old Maryland Air National Guard staff sergeant with violating the state's wiretapping laws. He faces up to 16 years in prison and the loss of his engineering job if convicted of a felony.
Maryland law says that a person may not 'willfully intercept … oral communications' without consent. It defines 'oral communications' as 'any conversation or words spoken to or by a person in private conversation.'
Another assistant state's attorney, Scott H. Lewis, argued that many police officers in Maryland have cameras mounted in their dashboards and that the law requires them to notify drivers that they are being recorded on traffic stops.
[The Judge] then recited the quote, which he said he found in a 1972 Maryland Court of Appeals case on whether the state could send people to psychiatric wards."