What to do if you’re in front of a police camera

By James Morton
Attorney at Law

One feature of modern life that takes a lot of getting used to is that wherever you go, there’s likely a camera on you. It’s hard to know how to act – especially when the person behind the camera is a police officer.

Whether it’s with a dashcam or a body camera, police are increasingly shooting video of their interactions with the public. If you find yourself in a situation in which a camera might be aimed at you, what should you do?

First, remember this: The police are making a movie, and you’re the star of it. How the plot comes out in the end can depend on your performance. You’re not going to win an Oscar, but if you follow good legal advice, you might be able to avoid a long stay in jail

Some points to remember:

  • Act and talk as if you are facing a judge or jury – because ultimately, you are. Remember that you and the officer are not the entire audience, and that when this film plays in a courtroom, what you say and do right now, with the camera on you, can affect the rest of your life.
  • Be nice about it, but politely refuse to answer questions about what you are doing. This may be the trickiest part. Most of us want to cooperate with law enforcement, and when we’re nervous, it’s hard to keep our mouths shut. But keeping quiet is a great way to stay out of trouble.
  • Beyond showing the officer your ID and insurance information, you don’t have to do That includes taking a field sobriety test or blowing into a Breathalyzer. Nor do you have to allow the officer to search your vehicle or home. Again, it may seem rude, but politely declining to do or say anything is the smart course.
  • You may be arrested. If so, go along peaceably and ask to have your attorney present.
  • Say nothing else until that attorney is with you.

Be the strong, silent type, saying no more than necessary – but be polite. That will give your movie a better chance of leading to a happy ending.

But don’t try to go it alone. You need a costar – an experienced criminal defense attorney. I’ve been on both sides, as prosecutor and defender. When the camera starts rolling, call me at 803.366.3388.

James Morton is a founding partner of Morton & Gettys Law Firm in Rock Hill, SC. He has more than three decades’ experience practicing criminal law in South Carolina. He can be reached at (803) 366-3388 or

Information or interaction on this page should not be construed as establishing a client-attorney relationship or as legal advice. For advice about your specific situation, please consult one of our attorneys.