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Court rules live streaming police is protected by Constitution

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In a major decision, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a person can legally live stream their interaction with a police officer thanks to their First Amendment rights, however, police can overcome those rights in certain circumstances.

According to Reuters, the case comes from a Winterville, North Carolina, man suing a police department for attempting to snatch his phone away while he was live streaming a traffic stop. Dijon Sharpe was in the passenger seat when his cousin, the driver, was pulled over by officers.

Officers told Sharpe they could record the interaction, but not live stream it due to safety concerns. Sharpe ignored their commands and continued to live stream, causing the two parties to get into a physical struggle.

Despite the court upholding the right to live stream an interaction with a police officer, the court upheld qualified immunity for the officers and dismissed Sharpe’s claim for personal liability against the officers.

Sharpe’s remaining claim will be sent back down to the lower courts. He intends to appeal to the full circuit appeals court.

The ruling sets a precedent for individuals to sue departments for violating their right to live stream an interaction but does clear a path for officers to supersede that right by claiming their own personal safety is at risk.

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