back to article Man vindicated for videotaping his own traffic stop

Maryland state police were wrong to arrest and charge a man for taping his own traffic stop and posting it on YouTube, a judge ruled earlier this week. Motorcyclist Anthony Graber was charged with illegal wiretapping for recording plainclothes state trooper J.D. Uhler jumping from his unmarked sedan and drawing his gun -- and …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    There were two

    wrongs comitted by the police. The first was when the stop was made, the officer must FIRST identify himself/herself as a police officer. The second wrong was carried out when the police misused the power bestowed upoin them by the public they serve, in an attempt to cover their arses. The motorcyclist paid the fine, yet the law-enforcement entity got upset and mis-applied the very law they are sworn to uphold in order to attack a citizen and exact revenge for what they perceived as a wrong done against them. What they did is something I would expect in a third-world country rife with corruption, not a professional police force sworn to protect the public, and certainly not in the United States of America, supposedley the "Land of the free".

  2. Lance 3
    FAIL

    Second officer

    The second officer could have handled the entire thing and the first officer should have done nothing. The motorcyclist came to a stop, just like the cars in front of him. The second officer arrives when they are all still stopped. There was no need for the first officer to do anything at all.

    The only person all hyped up; was the first officer.

    Guns are not like water here.

    Your post is full of fail.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    let's be fair

    In blighty you can get your head blown off by cops with no warning for the crime of looking slightly dusky on the London underground. And it's considered a lawful killing if they invoke the magic 'T' word, so the cops face no action at all and the police commander presiding over the debacle gets 'punished' with a promotion.

    It's about time the UK cops got some training from these rather restrained softly, softly US cops.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    As a former US resident...

    The police pull a gun out when they stop you for speeding as they have to worry that you may have a gun and don't want to be stopped by the police. Having been stopped south of Seattle doing 73 mph in a 60 mph zone, I've experienced this. I was doing 13mph above the limit and told off. This motorbiker was probably doing 2X the limit at one point, which means way faster than anyone else will expect. I'm surprised he still has his license.

    Still, glad to see that he's allowed to video the police. Me, I wouldn't put the evidence of my speeding up online.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    America

    Richest third-world nation on the planet

  6. Joe Montana
    WTF?

    First thoughts

    This guy dressed in normal clothes, came out of a normal looking car holding a gun and demanding the rider get off his bike. Only after making this demand several times did he claim to be state police and at no time did he show a badge...

    Had i been that biker, i would have assumed i was being robbed or the victim of a road rage attack.

  7. HereIAmJH
    FAIL

    Cop was wrong

    The wiretapping case was thrown out, as it should be. Which is what the article is about.

    What infuriates most about this story are the actions of the out-of-uniform, off-duty in an unmarked (likely personal) vehicle that pulled his weapon for no reason. I know plenty of current and former police officers, and their response hasn't been supportive of this guys actions.

    As someone else pointed out, by the time the officer had exited his car there was already a marked patrol car on the scene. There was no point in him being involved. If he witnessed a crime he should have called it in and then waited for the officers authorized to make the stop to do their job. He would then be required to testify in court to the offense.

    From there he failed to identify himself. He made the assumption that both the citizen and the patrolman that was in his line of fire would recognize him as an officer, and there was no reason for him to think that. While the motorcyclist possibly broke several traffic laws, NONE them justified deadly force. This video is a tutorial on how NOT to do a traffic stop.

    As for those of you with your ignorant bias towards Americans. Not everyone owns a gun. Most that do own guns do not carry them. They are purchased for hunting, sport (target shooting), and home protection. Those that do have the option to carry don't regularly do so because guns are heavy, awkward, and require restraints on your activities. No carrying in banks, gov't buildings, or ANY privately owned semi-public space where prohibited by the owner. (work place, retail store, etc) If you don't look like a paper target and aren't breaking into my house, you aren't likely to ever even see my 9mm.

    Of course there are those that carry guns illegally, but that isn't unique to America.

    As to traffic officers getting shot all the time, that's a statistic presented by people who have no clue about the facts. Rarely do officer pull their weapon on a traffic stop. Other than on TV, I have never seen it happen.

    Also, traffic officers are not afraid of cameras. Nearly every patrol car in America has a dash cam now. They are more likely to be used to back up an officer's testimony than used against them.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    As for those of you with your ignorant bias towards Americans. Not everyone owns a gun

    Who said that sunshine? I believe the statement was "more guns than citizens", and yes it's a valid statistic, perhaps overstated but nonetheless. Christ, the guy living next door to my dad has about 16 different guns, ranging from too big to fire from one hand to several that will easily hide in your clothing.

    >>Also, traffic officers are not afraid of cameras. <<

    Uh, say what? Most officers are afraid of cameras, both dirty and clean - the clean because they may do something stupid in a panic, like the guy here; and the dirty because.. well, if you need to know THAT you're in more trouble than a bad arrest will counter.

    The point is that police officers will use that recording against you with impunity, even if it shows you at your worst. But they do not accept that average q. citizen will do the same.

  9. Lance 3

    Irony

    The irony that they complain about wiretapping but yet almost every police car (marked or unmarked) usually has a video camera that is activated during pursuits and stops. So shouldn't the DA go after the police for its use? They can't have it both ways.

    I've thought about mounting cameras on my bikes just for when a cop wants to lie. Let them lie, contest it in court where you show the evidence and make sure their credibility is shot and that their boss, the city and more importantly the prosecutor/DA know full well that they lied under oath and can never give testimony in court. That is how to get a bad cop off the force.

  10. Asgard
    WTF?

    Felony wiretapping charges?!

    I find it very interesting how often we see this repeating pattern of police behaviour of them utterly hating being filmed and then doing all they can to find any way they can to punish anyone who tries to film them for the crime as they see it of filming them. This seems to be a repeating pattern around the world of people in police authority. They very evidently fear people seeing the truth. The question then is why do they fear people seeing exactly what they are doing? What are they so self concious about? ... Do they really fear so often being seen to be behaving outside of the laws that they themselves must also follow.

    Knowledge is power so why do they fear more people knowing exactly how they are behaving, unless that knowledge gives power against them.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    BAAAAAD cop

    Seriously folks, that cop needs to find another line of work. Pull a gun and take that long to ID yourself? That's a good way to get killed and take others with you. No way a cop can actually/really charge someone, so there's a conspiracy to charge the victim to cover up the mistake. Not good. Somebody needs to go down hard over this one.

    I have long thought that we need a new crime: assault with the legal system. If convicted, the sentence is the sum of max jeopardy of all of one's intended victims plus any applicable conspiracy charges and other crimes. Does the name Mike Nifong mean anything to you?

    BTW, the guy on the bike is a jerk. It's one thing to drive like that on an empty road, but in traffic, there's no excuse.

  12. Andus McCoatover

    It's one thing to drive like that on an empty road, but in traffic, there's no excuse.

    Darwin'll sort that out.

    Basically, on a motorbike in traffic, you're an egg on two wheels. Fuc*k it up and (most times) only you and the duck-egg possibly sitting behind you will get it.

    If you're lucky, you both die. If you're unlucky, the 20-year-old 'duck-egg' behind you gets paralysed for life. Exactly what happened to a late friend of mine.

    I sometimes think of the 16 friends I've lost to motorbikes over the years, mainly thanks to a combination of the 1970's Japanese invasion of Suzuki 250cc "Ram-Air" highly-tuned bikes, lack of real training*, testosterone and alcohol.

    I could weep when I think of the great friends with serious potential I lost 35 years ago. All the funerals, just in a little village called 'Harbury', Warwickshire. In less than a year.

    *Lack of real training - When I took my motorcycle test in Leamington Spa in 1973, I used a Honda-70. Passed, the simplest of tests. No previous theory or schooling required. Was basically immediately handed a licence to go and buy the most powerful machine then out, to potentially kill myself on it the same day.

  13. Steven Jones

    Motorcycling fatalities

    I passed my motorcycle test about the same time (1972 I think), on an even then, very old Lambretta LI150. Looking back at those years, before even compulsory crash helmets, I'm amazed that all my schoolmates survived. Onto University in London, then nobody could much afford personal transport apart from the twerp who smashed his Triumph Bonneville whilst demonstrating doing wheelies outside the hall of residence in South Kensington.

    I too came across the later casualties, and can only imagine what regret some may have. it's especially tragic when this often happens in the young.

    However, judging be the number of motorcyclists on the M4 on my commute to work who pass between lines of cars travelling at 70mph with inches to spare on each side, the tolerance (or even seeking out) of risk amongst many of the motorcycling fraternity is different to the aveerage person in their family hatchback. These sort of stories always bring out the Libertarians, but the statistics are stark. Per mile travelled, on average, a motorcyclist is over 30 times more likely to be killed than somebody in a car. Something like that adverse ratio is roughly reflected across the entire Western world.

    More inherently more difficult to see, more unstable, much fast, much more vulnerable and often ridden by thrill seekers, the result is pretty well inevitable, with (in 2009) about one in 5 road deaths being of motorcyclists.

  14. Alex King
    Stop

    With you on this...

    Right up to the last paragraph. I've got a particular issue with the 'ridden by thrill seekers' and 'result is pretty well inevitable' phrases.

    I agree there is a thrill seeker element but, in my experience, there are far more bikers who simply use their bikes as a sensible means of transport. The guy in this video is clearly in the thrill seeker category, and I (along with most bikers) would be happy to be relieved of the burden of having to live him and others like him down whenever we're in public.

    I know a great many bikers who have reached a ripe old age, so it's by no means 'inevitable' that riding a bike is like being on death row, and terming it as such is just more encouragement to that thrill-seeking element who actually like the dangerous image.

    Sadly, I think this sort of thing will continue as long as bike manufacturers keep promoting bikes as expensive toys rather than as the sensible, environmentally friendly, congestion reducing means of transport that they actually are.

    Oh yeah, agree with the concensus too - Silly cop, stupid DA, good judge.

  15. Steven Jones

    Sports bikes, commuters, toureres etc.

    The comment about is inevitable is on the overall pattern, not any individual rider. Clearly there is a huge difference between different types of motorcyclists and I know a few who have been on two wheels and are not in their 50s. However, they tend to be the types who do a bit of touring or commuting as a cost effective and convenient way of travelling. They are still in more danger than somebody in a tin box (it's inherent in being more difficult to see and more vulnerable), but they are clearly not the ones at most risk.

    That's very different in my experience to many of lovers of sports bikes. I'm not sure why anybody wants a 125bhp bike unless it's for thrills. There was a study in the US one different categories of bikes, and sports models were much more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than tourers or commuter bikes.

  16. Andus McCoatover

    Gotta agree with the sentiment...

    Here in Finland, the 'biking season' is naturally short. 4 months at a guess.

    So, what I see is a concentration of what, for example Britain sees.

    What we see is twerps on mopeds scaring the bejeezus out of elderly folk, (myself and the missus included) but people with bigger machines are generally a) More affluent - to afford a bigger machine, and b) more experienced (else they' be already dead)

    El Reg -Forget the Flying Car. I want a flying Zimmer Frame...Then I can drop my filled adult diaper on them b*astards...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Hoooray! the justice system worked!

    For once we get a story that the justice system actually did what it was supposed to - it self-corrected a mistake made by the public employees.

    Rather than beating the dead horses of whether the motorcyclist or the cop Did Things Wrong, people should be cheering the Maryland state judge for, in no uncertain terms, putting things.

  18. Penguin herder
    Big Brother

    True, but

    "Rather than beating the dead horses of whether the motorcyclist or the cop Did Things Wrong, people should be cheering the Maryland state judge for, in no uncertain terms, putting things."

    Ok, good point, BUT the cop acted with a bad mix of arrogance and cowardice and at a minimum needs to be a short lease, and he probably should be up on charges. The lawyer(s) who brought the wiretapping charges need to be in serious trouble. People with the police powers MUST be held to high standards or they will end up eating us alive, one abuse at a time.

  19. Neil Hoskins
    Grenade

    Frankly...

    ... I wouldn't have bothered stopping him: I'd have just shot him from the driver's seat. Dozy twat.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    i am not surprised he was stopped.

    He is riding on the wrong side of the road.

  21. Red Bren
    Coat

    To be fair

    They all are!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Wiretapping?

    Do Americans hire professional wiretappers to cover their weddings? Or have irritating friends that insist on showing them their holiday wiretaps?

  23. bugalugs
    Pint

    " @Mr Young " may be an inadequate title but it will have to do this time

    Thanks for the link, but we do those sorts of things most Sundays here and our pillions join in the fun !

    Seriously folks, the biker *was* doing quite silly speeds and certainly invited constabulary attention. The gun-toting plain-clothesman would have been liable to police disciplinary proceedings ( but probably not prosecution ) in this part of the world - I wonder whether amateur recordings like this would be admissible in such a case ?

    Anyway, kudos to hizonner for a common-sense ruling.

    Right, time to warm up the 850 and be off to get bug-splattered !

    You have a beer, I'm driving...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Precedent.

    "...I wonder whether amateur recordings like this would be admissible in such a case ?...".

    I am aware of at least a couple of cases where convictions were secured on the strength of Youtube vids posted by the Perp. (UK) But still, I think you are right to wonder.

  25. Chris Green
    Happy

    Stopped biker threatening?

    Last time I tried to pull my weapon out in a hurry, while wearing bike gloves and leathers, I came close to a senior incident (Side of road, bushes, caught short, etc.).

  26. Rogerborg

    As a biker myself

    I'd rather than the cop has just drifted in front of him and let Darwin have a say.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Well, MINE didn't pull a gun on me...

    But apart from that, I got a similar reaction from the fuzz a little while ago - and I wasn't even on a bike. I was a tourist to London, taking photos outside the British Museum...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Either way...

    ...the motorcyclist is one massive dickhead.

    Filming yourself going at stupid speeds and pulling wheelies on a public highway - oh yeah, so clever. Wonder how clever he would feel if he caused an accident that killed someone?

    What a twat.

    Take your bike to a frikkin' track day or something.

  29. Bugs R Us

    Not an offence in the UK

    ...to record an encounter with law enforcement as long as you declare up front that the encounter is being recorded. It is not illegal to use video recording equipment while in control of vehicle as long as you can demonstrate you are still fully in control of the vehicle.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Oh dear

    "When we exercise that power in a public forum, we should not expect our activity to be shielded from public scrutiny.”

    Oh Jesus, I need a lie down, just....too..,much...common...sense...from...a...public...servant....

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's wrong?

    Looks like a normal drive on the m25 to me.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Few bikers on here

    So I'm sure you will bear me out...

    It takes me a good 2 or 3 minutes to undo velco, zips and gloves etc to get a friggin cigarette out..

    Not much chance of sneakily pulling a gun

    I don't mind admitting I'd have absolutely crapped myself if that bloke had been waving that gun around 'at' me

  33. Eden
    WTF?

    I also

    Watched the video even after reading the whole article and still had that OMFG i'm being robbed feeling.

    But any thought of "fleeing" was quickly out as I would be an easy target and hitting a pedestrian with a small bike like that wouldn't have gotten him away so easily.

    On my K1200 LT I would give it a damn good try though!

    Also may I say as a biker there was nothing wrong with the guys riding!, yes the wheelie on a public road is silly but he only sped/wheelied between empty spots of traffic and was a risk to no-one but himself for that very short moment of silly fun.

    No reason at all to pull a gun on someone and shout several times to get off the bike BEFORE you remember to say oh yeah I'm a cop, not that this will make you feel any better.

    As for the filming, the guy didn't go out to film the cop, so the offence really seems to be posting it up, but then helmet cams are not exactly inconspicous!

    I got one purely for the number of times some idiots hit me or caused me to take emergency evasion then f**ed off so I had something to take to the police and my insurance company, nautrally no silly hijinks recorded.

    And it would be fairly easy to rig a setup to stream the recording to a secure store online rather than a solid state media locally with only minimal sotrage for spooling during low/no signal periods.

  34. Tom 13

    Never get a good look at the street signs, so I can't positively identify the road

    he was on, but I'm guessing that would be I70 between Frederick and Baltimore. Depending on the stretch of highway the speed limit might be 65, which makes 69 nowhere near twice the speed limit. Oh, and that would be light to moderate traffic on I70. Same would go for I95 or I270 which are the other major MD highways (and tend to be more urban hence my belief the road is I70).

    Pulling the wheelie was stupid. So was not showing a badge or turning on the red and blue lights. Double stupid on raiding the house for wiretapping. But as a long time resident of the People's Republic of Maryland, none of these actions surprise me. And with revenue's down O'Malley is trying to squeeze every cent out of anybody he can shake down for whatever reason.

    The only one showing some sense in this whole mess is the judge. Which, this being the People's Republic of Maryland, does surprise me. Kudos to him from a transplanted gun-loving redneck.

  35. No, I will not fix your computer
    FAIL

    As a biker....

    1. When I do something stupid either for fun or without thinking, I don't want any evidence, that said for every ghost rider who films himself there's some numpty who drops off the back of a clutch wheely, all these end up on youtube, there's skillful clowns, clownful skills and just clowns.

    2. If he mushes himself it's likely (but not definite) he won't take anybody else with him, so it's stupid in the same way as nose studs, smoking dope and pink hair is stupid (why not if you not affecting anyone else, it's not for everybody but hey!) - note, most fatal bike crashes are caused by "other driver", so car drivers take note, by all means call bikers stupid for popping the odd wheely or misplacing the speed limit, but also remember to look both ways when you pull out, use your mirrors when changing lanes and maybe indicate a bit more, your stupidity may not be as in your face, but it does prove to be more fatal.

    3. Assuming that cop #1 was responsible for the charge he went from being over cautious possibly to the point of inappropriate intimidation to a twat (probably out of embarassment), everyone of my engagements with the boys in blue has been respectful and honest in both directions (UK).

  36. Trust Me
    Thumb Up

    A Most Wonderful Thing

    Some background. In Maryland, it is against the law to record Audio, not Video, without the conset of all who are recorded. So the basis of this prosecution was the fact that the Maryland State Police Trooper had not given his consent to being recorded and published on the internet. Following the local news reporting, it is not clear if the Harford County District Attorney decided to pursue this on his own or if the Maryland State Police were pissed and raised a stink. Regardless, this state judge's decision is amazing and gratifying. Most states in the US allow secret video and audio recording of most anybody, but Maryland is different. This issue came up during the Clinton Impeachment because Linda Tripp was a Maryland resident when she recorded Monica Lewinsky's telephone calls about servicing Bill Clinton's penis.

    This Is A Most Wonderful Thing, so now in Maryland, if its public, there is no expection of privacy. Unless you are Inciting, Resisting Arrest, or Failing To Obey The Lawful Commands of a Peace Officer. So, film the police in action all you want, just let your lawyers sort it out in the end.

    Side Note: After viewing the video of this incident, the on duty and off duty Maryland State Troopers did what they were supposed to do: supress and dominate the sitution. Then, offer peaceful / reasonable solutions or arrest everyone in sight. This Motorcyclist was pulled over on a ramp from Northbound I-95. When he stopped, he had a Maryland State Police Cruiser behind him on the ramp with flashing lights, a screaming siren and a P.A. or loudspeaker, telling him hands up, don't move.

  37. No, I will not fix your computer
    Thumb Up

    Maryland

    Actually it's only illegal if it's "interception", the camera was in plain view with the intention to record himself, and his intention was not to record the police, he only recorded dialogue he was involved with (i.e. no interception) he was also aquitted of possessing a "device primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of oral communications". Incidentially, "public" doesn't really mean anything, so if you delberately leave a microphone in a public place you *can* be arrested for "interception" under Maryland law if the purpose is to hear a conversation that you otherwise would not be able to overhear (and it's irrelevant if you record it or not, it's the interception which is illegal). There's a few incorrect assumptions about Maryland law and it's not as mental as people think.

    Interestingly enough, I'm assuming that the off duty cop was driving his own, personal car, that tint on the windows is definitely more than 35% which is illegal in Maryland.

    Having watched the video now (you tube is blocked at work), I think the biker wasn't actually driving stupidly, if you see how his head nods about he is checking every single manouver, not just mirrors but distance and some shouldering too, slowing down for traffic and accelerating cleanly, nothwithstanding it wouldn't take much for another road user to be breaking the rules or not paying attention to end up with a big mess and a long red streak of biker all over the road. Have a look on youtube for ghost rider and you'll see some scary shit.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another thought..

    Did the cop only identify himself after he realized he was being recorded??

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