Along with Facebook live, live streaming apps such as Instagram and TikTok, allow millions of users to instantly create a reality show, with the ability to broadcast real life, in real-time, to absolutely anyone who may want to watch. However, in some cases, live streaming can record disturbing images and behavior. If a person live streams a crime taking place, there may be substantial legal consequences.

Constitutional Rights

Americans typically have a constitutional right to take photographs and videos of whatever is in the public. However, with the emergence of live-streaming apps, some of these rights are dependent on specific facts and circumstances. While the First Amendment to the Constitution allows citizens the right to record in public, other persons have rights as well, including those bystanders captured in a video or those who are victims of a crime. As technology races forward, our courts and lawmakers are trying to determine how these new forms of technology impact our legal, moral and ethical rights under the law.

People are increasingly videotaping encounters with police officers, particularly in the event of police misconduct. The live streaming of these types of offenses are typically protected under First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court has yet to step in and provide conclusive guidance on the constitutionality of live-streaming of crimes; however, as current law stands, if you are live-streaming a crime with the intent to record or gather evidence to prove a crime was committed at a later time, you will likely have the right to do so under the First Amendment.

Example of Illegal Live-Streaming

In one specific case of illegal live-streaming, two teenage girls met a 29-year-old man at a mall and returned to his house with him and consumed alcohol. The man sexually assaulted one of the teens, while the other teenage girl live-streamed the crime via the Periscope app. This live-streaming app allows users to not only live-stream videos, but also saves them for 24 hours. Although the teenage girl being assaulted clearly was asking for help, her friend admits that she “got caught up in the likes” she was receiving, as she was live streaming the rape occurring in real-time. The teenage girl videotaping the crime never offered any help or assistance to the victim.

In this case, both the rapist and the teenager girl were both charged with the crimes of rape, kidnapping, and sexual battery. However, because there had been a live-streamed video of the event, they were also charged with distributing sexually related material regarding a minor. If the teenager who videotaped the incident would have attempted to stop the crime or was using the video clearly as a way to preserve evidence, the case may have turned out differently.

Additionally, this case occurred in a private home. While most people waive their right to privacy in public, if a victim is being assaulted in public, they have the right to not have the crime videotaped by bystanders and live-streamed unless it is to preserve the evidence on their behalf at a later time.

Contact a Defense Attorney

If you live-streamed a crime or were the victim of a crime that was live-streamed, you should visit with a defense attorney as soon as possible to help you understand your rights. Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at The Moorhead Law Group at 303-578-5948 or online today to discuss your legal options and your rights.