Texas Deputy Struggles to Find Legitimate Reason Why Recording Him is Illegal

Shot back in April, the above video shows “Ex-Cop Law Student” Andrew Wake attempting to record a seemingly routine traffic stop when a Gray County Sherriff’s Deputy eventually shows up by his side.

After handing out his name and date of birth, the Deputy asks a few more questions to which Wake kindly refuses to answer per his rights. Confrontation over, good to go right? Not so much. Things get interesting after the traffic stop is over and Wake starts heading away from the scene.

Camera still wrapped around his wrist, recording, Wake is approached by yet another deputy. Referring to himself as Deputy Stokes, the officer tries every method he could possibly think of to convince Wake that what he was doing was illegal, and that he has the right to seize Wake’s camera gear. Deputy Stokes even goes so far as to say he will “make stuff up” in order to seize the gear.


Even after politely stating his rights and refusing to hand over his equipment, the video shows Deputy Stokes making two attempts to illegally grab the camera from Wake’s wrist. It’s around that time that a number of other officers show up and begin watching the situation unfold.

It carries on for a good 7–8 minutes before the officer eventually realizes at least a little of how in the wrong he is and sends Wake on his way.

The entire clip comes in just shy of 12 minutes, and makes for a wonderful example of how to properly approach these situations and state your rights without escalating it unnecessarily.

(via BoingBoing)

  • OtterMatt

    No, I’m pointing out that your metaphor is flawed because you’re trying to compare an illegal activity against a legal one.


    No need to name call just because you’re not smart enough to see where I’m coming from or you are one of those douchebag “Occupy” types. Either way you are on the wrong side of the argument in this case.

  • Joshua Boldt

    Your tip about contacting the police before doing a project in the area is fantastic. I hope people saw it.

    It is every citizen’s duty to observe and report the activities of law enforcement and government officials. Every time these officials overstep their rights and try to stop you from the legal observation and reporting of their activities it exacerbates a nation’s descent towards tyranny and martial law.

    It is very disheartening that these officers and many people on this forum do not understand this, and that they also seem to consider a perfectly normal, legal, and well-needed act like videoing police activity to be suspicious. When sources that officials cannot control are watching them, they live in a checks-and-balances system where they cannot step out of bounds. I love and respect police officers and I am very grateful for the job they do. A couple of them are my best friends. If they are a great cops they won’t care about legal observation and reporting of their activities. They are even supportive of the public showing the public that police do a valuable public service. If they are bad cops they will get angry; however, because you are doing your duty and recording them they will not be able to stop you and/or they will get in trouble when they try.

    In situations like this video where officers do not understand the law, the citizen who reported it freely to other citizens via the internet performed a public service (regardless if he did it for self promotion). Many officers in that area will now either take the time and educate themselves on the laws about photography/videography in public places and of law enforcement, or the video will reach other government officials in the area and it will become mandatory training.

    (Possibly in addition to training on touching citizens and illegal search and seizure.) (It is true that courts have refrained from punishing officers who were proved to have purposely lied to citizens in order to trick them into searches and seizures without warrants — which seems to be what the officer in this video may have been doing — but that is not the point, and it doesn’t mean that it is ethical to do so, nor does it infer that all courts would uphold it if a citizen sued an officer for it, regardless of precedent.)

    To directly address some of your statements…

    They had no right to arrest this guy based on the conversations in this video, nor to bring him in for questioning. Contrary to the wholly and absurdly inaccurate portrayal of the law and of police in movies and TV, they cannot just go around arresting people for no reason, and showing probable cause for search and seizure is actually quite hard to prove to most judges without hard and fast, concrete evidence.

    Your analogy about the 911 attacks is illogical. Almost all of the participants in the 911 attacks had criminal records in at least one country, were in the US illegally or under false pretences, were being observed (legally) by our government and/or other governments, and most of them performed criminal acts prior to 911 like bomb making, falsifying documents, etc. The government actually had an indication that terrorist attacks could take place, but they did not have enough pieces of the puzzle to connect all the 911 criminals together and predict their actions. The government cannot be blamed for that — it would have been virtually impossible to take the data from several different agencies and other countries and put it together to make that prediction. None of the attackers did illegal things in a public place in obvious view of officers while exercising their 1rst and 4th amendment rights. They did it in secret like most criminals and would not have appeared “suspicious” on the street corner like the guy in this video.

    The analogy of a mass murder is also illogical. Mass murderers are nearly always victims of mental illness, whether it is an ongoing illness or an acute onset illness (one that develops rapidly or almost immediately for no apparent reason, or because of physical trauma to the brain, or because of extreme mental trauma). Most mass murderers actually do have a prior history of mental illness and either criminal activity or highly irrational/erratic activity, just not usually to the point where people around them suspect they are going to invoke a mass shooting. Neither the people who snap and commit mass murders on an impulse, nor the people who have a history of illness and eventually progress to committing a mass murders are going to stand on a street corner filming police in action, or take pictures of a courthouse in obvious view of officers and other citizens (and if they did they would probably do it in an erratic way that would draw attention). Evidence suggests that mass murderers either randomly chose an attack location, or they were already very familiar with the location and had no need to case it out or research it beforehand.

    It is an egregious error in logic and judgment on the part of officials who should have some kind of training and/or experience in understanding criminals and criminal behavior to imply that this man is suspicious of being a terrorist just for openly standing in public and taking pictures and videos. It borders on absurdity. They are implying it in the video in order to trick the citizen into thinking they could arrest him or seize his camera when, in fact, they could do neither.

  • spiralphoto

    So the basis of your current argument is purely semantic? Got it. That’s my cue to move on and stop wasting my time.

  • GeniusUnleashed

    While I agree with some of your points, I disagree with others.

    it’s everyone’s responsibility to report illegal activity of law enforcement and government officials, as well as all US citizens. But this seemed like a bored Law student trying to entrap cops doing their job. if this small town in Texas is well known as a bastion of illegal police activity, then sure, he was smart to carry his gear and try to catch them doing something illegal. The video does not indicate that, it indicates the exact opposite. It seems like he’s simply trying to make the police look stupid for no other reason than he can. In law enforcement, that’s called entrapment, and it’s illegal. Why should it be any different when a civilian does it to a cop who isn’t currently breaking the law? Obviously we’re just getting a small snippet of these people’s lives, so to question them as human beings or as professionals, based on it, would be idiotic at best. If you truly do have friends who are police officers, I can’t understand why you would want people to treat your friends like this when they are trying to do their job. Debate is good, but using the courts to resolve issues instead of
    Youtube is better, as we just saw with the Supreme Court today ruling that police can’t search our cell phones without a warrant.

    As to your point about what I said previously, they COULD have arrested him, for lying to them. They caught him in a lie and for that reason alone, could have arrested him for suspicious behavior, mixed in with filming what he had been filming.

    Being a good citizen doesn’t mean following the laws, it means being a good human being and treating your fellow human beings with respect and dignity, which he didn’t do by instigating this confrontation. The one sheriff didn’t act well either, but to put all the onus on him is like blaming the ref who doesn’t see the first player who threw the first punch, only the second player who retaliated.

  • Joshua Boldt

    It is not illegal to lie to a police officer when there isn’t a crime committed or probable cause to start an investigation.

    A statement given during a federal investigation that is proven to be a lie can lead to a felony if the prosecutor decides the materially false statement misled the federal investigator.

    I can’t recall where the guy lied in this video, but I will take your word for it. That lie doesn’t give the officer the right to start an investigation, even if the officer knew it was a lie. If the officer has a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed (which was not the case here — he may have mistakenly thought that you can’t record the police) and then there is a reasonable suspicion that a citizen lied to him about that crime, then he can escalate the situation to a legal enough level of suspicion to bring the person in for questioning; however, he still does not have enough evidence for probable cause which would allow him to arrest the citizen (unless there is clear evidence or credible witnesses on-scene).

  • GeniusUnleashed

    I don’t think that’s the case but I may be wrong, check with your cop buddies and I’ll check with mine. He lied and said to the first cop that he was taking court shots and then happened on the scene shown. When the second guy came up and said he’d been following them filming them, he admitted he had been, which is very suspicious that he lied about it. That would be enough for a cop to bring him in for further questioning, not to be booked though. A cop can bring anyone in for suspicious behavior, they just have to prove that the suspicious behavior led to a crime to be able to book the person as far as I know.

    On a side note: This guys subtitles aren’t helping his case that this was just a random occurrence like the boy who got attacked while flying his drone. It feels very set up to me.