What are First Amendment Auditors?

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  • Abuck

    Active Member
    Is there actually a split? I can't recall similar case being decided at the Federal CA level elsewhere.
    It’s not just the 5th, but the 1st and 7th also. Possibly others by now as well. If any case would ever go to SCOTUS I can’t foresee any ruling that denies our right to film police in public.

    There was a SCOTUS decision back in October 2021 that strengthened Qualified Immunity, EXCEPT where civil rights violations are clear. It seems, for some reason, that violating our rights is especially troubling, and not protected activity. Imagine that.

    Many of these officers have been caught on camera admitting they don’t care about these rights. That’s not how our system is supposed to work, they are a danger to the public, and that needs to be addressed. If it takes some of them being personally held financially liable for their actions, then it’s for the greater good, and hopefully gives pause to future interactions. We shouldn’t fear interactions with LEO when we are not breaking any law. If they aren’t being educated by their superiors, the courts will do that for them.

    As more and more of these cases are brought forth, against additional departments, and in to more courts, it’s going to get harder for LEO to claim plausible deniability about what is or isn’t a known civil right. Their not knowing will be (is) seen as a failure of the individual, a failure of their department, and has already cost many municipalities. Costing us taxpayers. That sucks, and needs to stop. It is increasingly going to personally cost the officers involved.

    “In City of Tahlequah v. Bond, the Supreme Court reminds us that qualified immunity protects “all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.”

    Last edited:


    Active Member
    MDS Supporter
    Jun 29, 2013
    Anne Arundel County
    Qualified immunity applies to individual officers. You can still sue the department. Enough successful suits caused by one employee's actions will likely have bad career consequences for him/her/whatever.


    Active Member
    Qualified immunity applies to individual officers. You can still sue the department. Enough successful suits caused by one employee's actions will likely have bad career consequences for him/her/whatever.
    Yes, and it was very hard to overcome that QI standard, now even more so with the SCOTUS case I cited. But there is no QI for civil rights violations. The more LEO are made known this, the better off we are, for their sake, and that of society.

    Let’s face it, if you’ve been cuffed, hotboxed, spent several days in jail, affecting your work, family, mental and physical health, had financial burden of fines, fees, and lawyer costs, had your equipment confiscated and possibly broken, the evidence tampered with, all for NOT breaking the law, you should be able to then turn around and use the legal system against anyone and everyone involved with violating you. And you should get compensated. Even if the violation was minimal compared to what I have listed above, if your rights were violated, you should have legal recourse against those that jammed you up.

    What’s that phrase we hear all the time? Ignorance is no excuse of the law. That works both ways.

    Full disclosure. I worked for over 30 years as a video engineer of a tv station with a news department. We had a nice working relationship with local LEO. Often times they came to us for help with video evidence. To copy, analyze, or enhance it, such as zoom or brighten. We sat in on the process if the video wasn’t restricted in any way. Or showed them how to do what they needed to do. Now most can do this themselves with simple computer programs.

    Every single officer was glad for video, and welcomed body worn cameras, as they started to become available. These officers said it would protect them against false accusations. It makes you wonder about those that would suppress video evidence.

    We also had a lawyer come in from time to time for training purposes, to go over the legalities of the job with our employees. Things such as implied consent, plain view doctrine, public vs private property, recording where someone didn’t want you there, audio vs video privacy concerns, and more. One time a video was aired from outside a local college where an eagle eyed LEO spotted some amateur agricultural activity in a dorm window and that didn’t go so well for those future farmers.

    So I’m not anti LEO at all. Just anti bad LEO. There were times things didn’t match up with what was reported. One case was especially eye opening on how things can be twisted and covered up. That got somewhat exposed in court, but still, was not a good situation.
    Last edited:


    Active Member
    In light of what I posted above in #142, and other threads and decisions, I wanted to post this. I would think there would be a few things to say, for auditors, or anyone just generally filming.

    Ask the LEO if you can remain where you are within the public space, if you stop filming. If they say yes, it pretty much confirms that the space is public. But it also confirms that it IS an attempt to violate your 1A right to film.

    Next, I would state that they are putting their own qualified immunity at risk. Then ask if they are plainly incompetent, or are they knowingly violating my rights?

    Use the SCOTUS decision language to uphold your rights. If your rights are violated, it’s just more to use against them if you choose to.

    It’s not just about 1A, but all our rights. As the 2A is finally being recognized in some locations, there will be situations, detentions, and probably arrests where the person wasn’t breaking any law. I would replace the 1A language in the first question, to get them to admit their issue is with a legally carried firearm.

    IANAL, but I think clearly establishing that your rights are being violated can only help you if need be.

    Stay safe!


    Active Member
    Very interesting new development. It appears that there is a brand new addendum (maybe to the 2018 DHS memo) about filming on federal property, specifically about 1st amendment auditors. It is prohibited by statute. With exceptions, and while in the public areas, news gathering IS an allowed exception.

    Protective Service Officers are advised to inform on the prohibition against photography. Then report. That’s it. With the PSO such as the one in the video, it’s policing with a chance to escalate the encounter. Even with the new memo, and the exception for news gathering in public areas, he didn’t know his role.

    At the 16:12 mark, this new memo is visible. He hands it to Sean. You can do a frame grab to read it. It’s good his superior was called, and cooler heads prevailed.

    Wether you agree or disagree in what they do, having our rights recognized, and strengthened, is a good thing. Let’s hope our 2A rights continue on that same path.



    Dec 28, 2010
    They need to be discretely lured to a remote area with no alternate video surveillance. As for live streaming, I’m nearly certain they make signal killers that eliminate cell service, don’t they?
    Apply hickory shampoo, rinse and repeat…
    What are you suggesting, just say it.


    Active Member
    MDS Supporter
    What are First Amendment Auditors?
    By Evan Avnet, USTASC

    Disclaimer: The following text should be read as informative only and not as legal advice, RAS, or probable cause. Contact your attorney and/or state’s attorneys office for legal advice.

    The recent months have seen a rise in the number of people who call themselves “First Amendment auditors” or “free speech activists.” These self-proclaimed activists enter businesses, public areas and other locations to test the limits of their freedom of speech and capture video footage that can then be posted on social media. While some may view these activities as harmless, they can cause serious problems for business owners, police departments and security personnel. Let's discuss what First Amendment auditors are and why they are becoming an issue.

    Auditors can be spotted easily:
    • Recording from areas adjacent to business or government building entrances
    • Recording individuals and vehicles entering and leaving the premises
    • Recording through the windows of parked vehicles, especially police vehicles
    • Moving toward property or being on property that they feel is not trespassing (i.e. not posted as trespassing). Sometimes they claim that there is a right that allows them closer to the private property.
    • Have recording equipment, usually portable video recorders such as GoPros, cell phones, or similar type devices
    • Are confrontational with business owners, police officers, and security personnel
    • Use inflammatory rhetoric in an attempt to enflame the situation so it results in an assault, that then prompts civil litigation on the property owner or complaints on law enforcement personnel
    • Use of drones over private property or government property, especially law enforcement agencies
    • Use of language such as “I don’t answer questions” , “I am not required to present identification”, “Am I committing a crime?”, “Am I being detained?”, “What is your name and ID number”.
    • Claim to support law enforcement just not “bad” law enforcement who do not support 1st amendment rights.
    Who Are They?

    First Amendment auditors are typically individuals who record their interactions with law enforcement officers, security guards or other authorities while in public places in order to test their right to free speech. They may also take pictures or film inside businesses or other private locations without permission to further demonstrate their rights. I many cases they will enter public buildings and record staff, walk around hallways, enter open offices, etc in an attempt to inflame and irritate building personnel. In many cases, these individuals claim that they are testing the boundaries of their constitutional rights, though there is no legal basis for such claims. It is important to note that these activities can be dangerous and can lead to confrontations with law enforcement or security personnel if not handled properly. It should also be noted that their activity can prompt serious civil litigation if not handled properly. Although their claims are protecting the 1st amendment, many auditors record in order to 1) obtain grounds for civil action against police, security personnel, and business owners. 2) Monetize their social media channels. 3) Make business owners, police and security personnel look bad publicly.

    What Are the Issues?

    There have been numerous reports of First Amendment auditors creating issues for business owners and police departments across the country. In some cases, these activists have entered into businesses without permission and caused disturbances by filming customers without their consent or taking pictures of employees without asking first. Additionally, many police departments have reported an increase in calls regarding these activists entering into restricted areas or attempting to interfere with law enforcement operations.

    The problem with First Amendment auditors is that they often do not understand the full scope of their rights under the Constitution as well as local laws and regulations governing public spaces. This lack of understanding can lead to confrontations between them and authority figures which can quickly escalate into dangerous situations for everyone involved.

    Business owners should be aware that 1st amendment auditors have the right to be present on public property and may even record conversations between themselves and staff members. Police and security officers should understand that recording from public property (i.e. roadway, sidewalk, park, etc) is not illegal. There is no expectation of privacy in public areas or from view from a public area. The peeping tom law does not apply unless they are recording into a window from private property.

    Businesses that choose to should post “NO TRESPASSING” signs at entryways and property boundaries, including parking lots, not just on buildings. Business owners should not confront these individuals or have discussions with them. If they are on your property business owners can call police to have them trespassed from their property.

    Laws that apply:

    • CR 6-402 MISDEMEANOR $500.00 - 90 DAYS *2_2210* **TRESPASS-POSTED PROPERTY** ...did trespass and enter upon the property at _______(location), said property being posted against trespassers in a conspicuous manner.
    • CR 6-403 MISDEMEANOR $500.00 - 90 DAYS *2_2220* **TRESPASS: PRIVATE PROPERTY** ...did [enter upon/remain upon/cross over] the private property, and premises of _____ (owner) after having been duly notified not to do so by _____, the [owner/agent of the owner].
    • CR 6-408 MISDEMEANOR $500.00 - 90 DAYS *2_2280* **TRESPASS-PEEPING TOM** ...did enter upon the land and premises of _____ (owner) for the purpose of invading the privacy of the occupant of said premises by looking into said premises.
    • CR 6-409(a)(2) MISDEMEANOR $1,000.00 - 6 MONTHS *3_5707* **TRESPAS PUB AGNCY AFTER HR** ...did [refuse/fail to leave] _____, a property of the ______, a public agency, during regular closing hours, having no lawful business therein and having been requested to leave by ______(name) an authorized employee.
    • CR 6-409(b) MISDEMEANOR $1,000.00 - 6 MONTHS *1_0344* **TREPASS PUB AGNCY DUR HRS** ...did [refuse/fail to leave] _____, a property of ______, a public agency, during regular business hours upon being requested to do so by an authorized employee and when the defendant [had no apparent lawful business to pursue/was acting in a manner disruptive of and disturbing to the conduct of normal business]. NOTE: It must show that the acts took place during regular business hours. The facts must clearly describe "no lawful business", or the acts complained of must clearly specify how the normal business was disrupted and disturbed. Mere entrance into a public building, following a prior notification, does not amount to a criminal trespass under this section.
    • CR 6-410 MISDEMEANOR $1,000.00 - 6 MONTHS *2_2290* **TRESPASS GOVERNMENT HOUSE** ...did wantonly trespass on the property of Government House. NOTE: No requirement that the property of Government House be posted against unlawful entry or trespass.
    • CR 10-201(c)(2) MISDEMEANOR $500.00 - 60 DAYS *2_0050* **DISORDERLY CONDUCT** ...did wilfully act in a disorderly manner to the disturbance of the public peace.
    • CR 10-201(c)(1) MISDEMEANOR $500.00 - 60 DAYS *2_0045* **DISTURB PEACE HINDER PASSG** ...did willfully and without lawful purpose [obstruct/hinder] the free passage of another and others in a public place or on a public conveyance.
    • CR 10-201(c)(3) MISDEMEANOR $500.00 - 60 DAYS *2_0055* **FAIL OBEY RENBLE/LAWFL** ...did wilfully fail to obey a reasonable and lawful order of a law enforcement officer, to wit, _____ , made to prevent a disturbance to the public peace.
    • CR 10-201(c)(4) MISDEMEANOR $500.00 - 60 DAYS *2_0060* **DISTURB THE PEACE/DISORDERLY** ...did enter the [land/premises/beach] of ____(name), and did wilfully [disturb the peace of persons thereon by unreasonably loud noise/acting in disorderly manner].
    • CR 10-201(c)(5) MISDEMEANOR $500.00 - 60 DAYS *2_0065* **DISTURB PEACE - LOUD NOISE** ...did unlawfully, by unreasonably loud noise willfully disturb the peace of another [on the other's land and premises/in a place of business/in a public place/on a public conveyance].
    Aggressive 1st Amendment auditors can cause major headaches for businesses owners if left unchecked. It is essential that business owners understand that these individuals have certain rights but also know how to handle them appropriately if they become disruptive or uncooperative on private property—by contacting local law enforcement personnel immediately if necessary—in order to protect both their customers and their own business standards. Additionally, staying up-to-date with security protocols will help mitigate any potential issues caused by aggressive 1st amendment auditing activity before it becomes a problem in the first place.

    It is important for business owners and security personnel alike to be aware of how First Amendment auditing can create issues in public spaces and private businesses alike. By understanding who these activists are, what they do, and how to handle them should they arrive on your premises you can help ensure that everyone remains safe during any potential encounters with them. Furthermore, it is important for those engaging in this activity to understand the limits of their rights under both federal law as well as local regulations so as not create unnecessary conflict when exercising their rights in a public space or business setting.

    Do you agree with first amendment auditors? Why or why not?
    All I can say after reading a few seconds in, is HORY CLAP.

    I better finish and see what y'all think once I finish.


    Active Member
    MDS Supporter
    Oh boy, 8 pages. I may be awhile to digest this all.

    One initial thought is, there is 1A and 2A and all the A rights.
    There is also the right to be in public as a citizen and not have the Peace be disturbed.

    I am pretty sure there are laws that address disturbing the peace and officers, court workers, etc have certain powers to suggest, demand compliance, or else the violator can and will be dealt with according to the law.

    These laws should apply in cases like where the parties that participate in flooding 911 etc can result in dangers to other citizens.

    Not sure if any of you guys will have a retort about "yeah but.... rights. "
    If cops etc can take some rights away from these folks, why should we expect our rights to be treated differently?
    Well, unless I am wrong, our rights when exercised do not cause a violation of laws, and thereby present a danger to public safety, private individual safety, or the prevention of others from living according to the laws of the US and the Constitution.

    As I see it, both the legal system ( cops, lawyers, judges etc) and the citizens play equal parts in a peaceful American society. Once behavior crosses the line of is it Constitutional vs is it Legal for someone to do such and such... I can only see the equation as adding up when it is a sum of the situation being both Consitutional and Legal.
    I see an issue when a thing is UNConstitutional but is somehow still Legal, Or if Constitutional but is illegal, such as BLM Riots etc.


    For great Justice
    Oct 29, 2007
    The 1A isn't really needed to defend popular opinion, it is there to protect the controversial, and kinda pointless unless the line is pushed, and our rights are exercised and defended. First amendment auditors can be annoying, cringy, and many are virtue signaling A-holes, but their job is critically important. In much much the same way as people open carrying might be putting themselves at risk compared to concealed carry, the visibility and interaction with LEOs is helpful to all of us.


    Active Member
    Well, me thinks the RSO may have created his own issue by handing that DHS addendum out for an auditor to film it. The warning on the bottom of the page seems clear that it is sensitive but unclassified, on a need to know basis, and tagged as DHS For Official Use Only. New name, Officer Oops.

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