FAP and EFF File Amici Curiae Brief Urging Release of Body Camera Footage

The First Amendment Project, on behalf of the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, joined together to file an amici curiae brief to oppose a Motion for Protective Order brought by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, prohibiting the release of  dashboard camera footage from a patrol vehicle (“dash cam”) of an arrest on a public street in San Francisco, CA.

In People v. Williams, a routine case involving a DUI, the DA argued that the dash cam video (or any screen shot from it) should be banned from being “publicly exhibited, shown, displayed, published or used in any fashion” except in the Williams case itself, or “given, loaned, sold, or shown to any member or associate of the media, or otherwise published to any website, whether public or private, or any third party …” The DA further sought to put drastic new limits on the Public Defender’s access to the video, including barring the defense from showing it to witnesses outside of the courtroom, in connection with this case or others, duplicating it for internal use, or retaining it for post-conviction litigation. The DA’s justifications for the order relied on generic assertions that the video “might contain” confidential information. Most troubling, this was a “test case” for the DA’s office who intended to seek identical protective orders in every case with dash cam footage.

FAP and EFF filed an amici curiae brief in San Francisco Superior Court on behalf of the Defendant and in opposition to the protective order. FAP argued that the State had not made the particularized showing of harm necessary to obtain an order blocking the release of the footage, or put forth any compelling reasons for such an overbroad demand for secrecy in a video of a public official, performing public duties, in a public place. FAP also filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the defendant’s writ of mandate in the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.

Click here for FAP and EFF’s Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Opposition to the State of California’s Motion for Protective Order.
Click here for FAP’s Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Petitioner William’s Petition for Writ of Mandate.