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State Ban On Secret Recordings In Regards To Gov't Officials And Cops Is Ruled Unconstitutional

Boston's federal courthouse is seen in 2014. (Steven Senne/AP)
Boston's federal courthouse is seen in 2014. (Steven Senne/AP)
This article is more than 4 years old.

A Massachusetts ban on the audio recording of people without their knowledge was declared unconstitutional Monday in regards to government and law enforcement officials while performing their duties in public.

The ruling, from a federal judge in Boston, comes from two separate lawsuits filed against former Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts on behalf of two Boston activists and Project Veritas, a conservative organization known for targeting candidates and groups it considers liberal. The ACLU suit also names the Boston police commissioner.

Judge Patti Saris sided with the plaintiffs, who argue that the state law forbidding secret audio recordings of these officials violates the First Amendment.

The Massachusetts attorney general's office said it is reviewing the case and will handle any potential appeals to the ruling.

The court has requested that the parties involved in the case draft language for an injunction by Jan. 10 that would prevent the Suffolk County district attorney's office and Boston police from using parts of the law deemed unconstitutional when charging and prosecuting people. That order will not go into effect until the court approves the language.

Both Project Veritas and the ACLU applauded the decision.

“We’ve seen that videos of police officers can show the realities of policing in powerful ways: People’s recordings of police interactions have started national conversations about police reform and accountability,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, in the statement. “This ruling reaffirms that the fundamental right to record police officers does not disappear when a recording device is covered.”

WBUR's Dave Faneuf and Hannah Chanatry contributed reporting.

This article was originally published on December 10, 2018.

Laney Ruckstuhl Field Producer
Laney Ruckstuhl is the field producer for Morning Edition. She was formerly a digital producer.



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