Smartphones have become ubiquitous in modern society, increasing the likelihood of being caught on camera. On July 17th, 2014, a cell phone video of Staten Island police officers wrongfully killing Eric Garner reignited a national controversy on the nature of police violence, and set off a wave of citizen-surveillance through cell phones. By reviewing prior 1st and 4th Amendment court cases, I argue that citizens do indeed have a right to record on-duty police officers, and police do not have the right to conduct a warrantless search or seizure of a phone. Although a case involving citizen-surveillance of law enforcement has not yet reached the Supreme Court, based on the current balance of power as well as prior cases, it is likely that these videos would be declared a protected form of speech under the 1st Amendment.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Video recordings--Law and legislation--United States; Smartphones--Law and legislation--United States; Police brutality--United States--Prevention

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Communication and Media Technologies (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

School of Communication (CLA)


Andrea Hickerson

Advisor/Committee Member

Grant Cos


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes