ACLU Sues After Mother Falsely Arrested by Boynton Beach Police Officers

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
June 25, 2010 12:00 am

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BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sharron Tasha Ford, asserting that she was falsely arrested by Boynton Beach police officers and concurrently had her First Amendment rights violated when the officers prevented her from videotaping their interactions. The ACLU is asking the court to affirm the right of citizens to record interactions with public officials performing official duties in public places, notwithstanding a state law that makes interceptions of certain oral communications a criminal offense if done without the consent of all parties to the communication. Audio recordings are an integral part of videotaping.

Ford was arrested on February 28, 2009 in front of the Muvico movie theater in Boynton Beach after she was called to the location by police officers to pick up her minor son who was suspected of trespassing. Ford informed the officers that she was video and audio taping their conversation, to which officers responded that she didn’t have the right to tape the audio.

“We are defending Ms. Ford’s First Amendment right to videotape public officials performing their official duties in public places,” said Randall Marshall, ACLU of Florida Legal Director. “These officers abused their power and violated Ms. Ford’s rights, and that is intolerable. There simply is no reasonable expectation of privacy for police officers to claim that their public statements made while performing their official duties in public places cannot be recorded without their consent.”

Officers restated to Ms. Ford that it is illegal to tape interactions with police officers, and then threatened Ford’s son telling him that he wouldn’t be able to go home and would be arrested because of his mother’s actions. When Ford refused to stop videotaping, both her and her son were arrested and taken to the police station. Ford was arrested for resisting arrest because she asked too many questions, and her son was arrested for trespassing.

“In our country the actions of public officials performed in their public capacities in public places are not shielded from public scrutiny. Citizens have a particularly important role to play when the official conduct at issue is that of the police. Citizens cannot police the police if they fear criminal reprisals when they try to hold government officials responsible by openly recording police interactions with citizens,” said James K. Green, ACLU of Florida cooperating attorney.

The State Attorney’s office refused to file charges against Ms. Ford or her son. The ACLU lawsuit seeks to recover damages for her anguish and humiliation, as well as court costs and attorneys’ fees. The lawsuit also seeks a judgment affirming the right of citizens to record interactions with public officials.

Attorneys in Ford v. City of Boynton Beach are James K. Green, ACLU cooperating attorney; Meredith B. Trim, ACLU cooperating attorney; and Randall C. Marshall, ACLU of Florida Legal Director. The lawsuit was filed in the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of Palm Beach County by attorneys with the ACLU.

Download a PDF of the complaint here:

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