On February 6 2010, I posted a story about the arrest of a man on the Boston Common, after he had taken video of Boston police allegedly engaging in unnecessary use of force in arresting a man.
Simon Glick was walking along Tremont Street in Boston on October 1 2007, when he observed three uniformed Boston police officers using considerable force in arresting another man. Glick, now a practicing criminal defense attorney, was a law student at the time and suspected police brutality. His suspicions were reinforced upon hearing another observer shout “You are hurting him, stop!” at the officers. Glick video recorded the event with his cell phone. When the officers saw this they arrested him – for violating, they alleged, the Massachusetts wiretap law – Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 272, § 99. The “wiretapping statute” criminalizes the “interception of wire and oral communications” and defines “interception” as the secret recording of the contents of a communication, without the permission of all parties to the communication (emphasis added.)
Massachusetts is known as a so-called “two-party consent” state, meaning both parties to a phone conversation or an otherwise private meeting must be informed of, and consent to, audio recording of the conversation, in order for that recording to be legally permissible. It was (and is) designed to prevent someone from secretly audio taping a phone conversation, or secretly audio taping a meeting being held. To almost no surprise among Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers, the criminal prosecution against Glick was later dismissed, particularly due to the fact that there was no “secret” recording of this event.