Can you record a police officer in Spain? Know the regulations and the implications

Thanks to mobile phones today we all carry a camera in our pocket and we don't hesitate to use it if we see something that catches our attention. But it is advisable to act with caution and keep in mind that we cannot always make the recording legally. For this reason, today we want to solve a quite frequent question: can you record a police officer?

record a police officer in Spain


Want to film a police officer on the street and not sure if you can?

Don't worry, you're not the only one who has had this question. In fact, right now the regulation is somewhat complex and it is normal for doubts to arise.

On some previous occasion we have dealt with the issue of legality of street recordings. And now again we give you the same advice, if at any time you have doubts about whether or not you can record something or someone, it is better that you do not do it .

Think that if you break the law, they can fine you, the amount of which is usually high, and it is not worth taking the risk. And once this is clarified, we are going to address this issue of recording the police officers in greater detail.


What law prohibits you from recording a police officer or taking a photo?

In 2015 the government headed by Mariano Rajoy approved a new Citizen Security Law, known to all as the "Gag Law" for suppose a restriction on the rights of assembly, expression and social protest.

One of the changes introduced by this rule directly affected this issue that we are analyzing. Prohibit recording or photographing police officers while they were carrying out their work.

In 2018, already under the government led by Pedro Sánchez, PSOE and Unidas Podemos agreed to undertake the modification of this law to make it more flexible. However, the call for elections meant that the planned changes were not finally made.

Despite this, they managed to create an Instruction through the Ministry of the Interior in which it is highlighted that the mere capture or taking of images of police officers can never constitute an offense if it does not entail a risk for your safety or that of your family.

The aim is to guarantee the rights and freedoms of citizens while protecting the legal certainty of agents while they are doing their job.

However, all this has some nuances that we will go into a little more in depth later. We do not have absolute freedom to make a recording.


How does data protection work when you are going to record a police officer?

The Higher Institute of Public Security has clarified that images of police officers can be captured as long as they are properly uniformed and are carrying out their work on public roads .

The ruling of the Constitutional Court 72/2007 and article 8.2 of the Organic Law 1/1982 are applicable here, by virtue of which the recorded agent does not have intellectual property rights over his own image in these cases.

Another thing is that the recording is made for a criminal purpose, such as retaliating against the agent or disseminating her image and attacking her honor through social networks. 


Is it a crime to film a police officer?

It is not an infraction if we make the recording respecting the limits that we have indicated and we do not disseminate what is recorded.

Although the gag law has been relaxed in this sI mean, there are other precepts whose compliance is strict. This implies that in no case will we be able to process or process the personal data of agents that poses a risk to them, to their families or to the police operations that are underway.

The affected police officers are the ones in charge of reflecting in their report or complaint what is the specific risk that has materialized when their image was captured or disseminated. For this reason, the agents are empowered to identify who is capturing their image in case they later have to take administrative or criminal measures in the event that these recordings are used illegally.


The fines for recording a police, what are they?

The recording of police officers, if it endangers their safety or that of their family, the safety of protected installations or the execution of an operation, constitutes a serious infraction and the fine can oscillate between €600 and €30,000.


Can you record police proceedings?

This is a very controversial topic. In principle, if the agents are working on the street and we respect their safety, we could record. However, it could happen that our actions put an operation at risk, which would be an offense that could lead to a fine.

What do we do then? The best thing is not to record and let the media be in charge of these issues, since they are enabled.

Two more observations that are important. As individuals we can never record a plainclothes policeman doing his job, only the media can do it and always hiding his identity.

In the case of anti-terrorist operations, recording is totally prohibited even for the media.


Maybe you ask: and can a policeman record a citizen?

Now that we have clarified this matter, another question arises: can a police officer record us? It is increasingly common for agents to carry a camera that captures images of what they are doing and we may find that they take images of us.


Is it a crime to get filmed you?

Here we find ourselves with an extremely complex issue because it does not have a specific regulation.

The Citizen Security Law indicates that the Security Forces and Corps can proceed to record people in public places through fixed or mobile video surveillance cameras. But it does not clarify if this also includes cameras that the agents themselves can carry with them or even on their mobile phones, although it is understood that it does.

In some Autonomous Communities express authorizations have been granted to use them, but in many places it is a matter that is not regulated.


What does the case law on police recordings?

On the other hand, the jurisprudence seems to agree that there is no problem for an agent to make a recording in a public place and in the exercise of his duties her. This does not violate any fundamental right.

In short, there are several rules that try in one way or another to regulate this issue and none seems willing to clarify the issue. Meanwhile, the courts seem to have opted for the most logical option and tend to accept these recordings.

If we think about it a bit, it doesn't make much sense that we as citizens are allowed to capture the image of a police officer on the street and instead the agents cannot capture images that could become important to do their job.

In one case and in another, it is essential that when making the recording you always respect the drights of all involved.

So now you know, in principle you can record a policeman carrying out his work on the street, but always with caution.


15 Frequently asked questions about the legality of filming a police officer in Spain

1. Is it legal to record a police officer in Spain during a control or intervention?

Yes, it is legal to record a police officer in Spain during a control or intervention as long as it takes place in a public place and does not obstruct his work. According to the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the Spanish Constitutional Court, recording public officials, including police officers, in the exercise of their duties is a right protected by freedom of expression and information. However, it is essential not to interfere with their work or jeopardize the safety of the procedure.


2. Do I need the consent of the police to record it?

You do not need the consent of the police officer to record them in the exercise of their public duties in a public space. Police activity, being a public function, can be subject to scrutiny by citizens. However, it is important to ensure that the recording is not used for dishonest or defamatory purposes, and that it does not interfere with police activity itself.


3. What does the Organic Law on Data Protection say about recording an agent?

The Organic Law 3/2018, Protection of Personal Data and guarantee of digital rights (LOPDGDD), focuses on the protection of personal data. Recording an agent in the exercise of his public functions does not violate this law, as long as the recording is limited to his professional activity and personal information irrelevant to the public interest is not disclosed. However, if the recording is done in a private context or the agent's personal data is used without a legitimate interest, you could be infringing the LOPDGDD. In this sense, it is vital that any recording or distribution of the material take into account the respect and protection of the agent's personal data.


4. Can I share the recorded video on social networks or media?

Yes, you can share the recorded video on social networks or the media, since the recording of a public official, such as a police officer in the exercise of his duties, is covered by the right to freedom of expression and information. However, you must be careful with the privacy and personal data that may appear in the video. If the captured content includes people not related to the intervention or sensitive data, you should pixelate or edit those parts before sharing it. In addition, the dissemination must not have a defamatory or dishonest purpose.


5. What happens if a police officer asks me to delete the recorded material?

In principle, a police officer does not have the right to require you to delete recorded material in a public space, especially if he is performing a public activity. However, if the recording was made in a way that interfered with your work or compromised security, there could be grounds for the officer to intervene. In any case, if a police officer asks you to delete the material, it is advisable to remain calm and, if you feel that your rights are being violated, seek legal advice later.


6. Can an agent confiscate my device for recording?

No, an agent does not have the right to seize your device solely for recording public activity. Unless there is a court order or reasonable suspicion that the device was used to commit a crime, confiscation would not be appropriate. If an agent tries to seize your device in these circumstances, it is essential to know your rights and, if necessary, seek legal advice after the incident.


7. Are there areas or situations where recording the police is prohibited?

Yes, there are specific areas and situations where filming the police may be restricted or prohibited. For example, withinpolice facilities, detention centers, or areas where critical security operations are handled. It may also be prohibited to record in situations that compromise the security of police operations or the identity of undercover agents. It's crucial to be aware of your surroundings and understand that not all situations are suitable or legal for recording.


8. What rights do I have as a citizen when recording a police intervention?

As a citizen, you have the right to record in public spaces, including police interventions, as long as you do not interfere with the actions of the police or compromise the security of the operation. This right is protected by freedom of expression and information. However, you must respect the privacy of third parties who are not part of the intervention. If an agent asks you to stop or move, it is vital to follow the instructions so as not to hinder her work.


9. Can I face penalties or fines for filming the police?

In general, filming police in public spaces should not carry penalties or fines. However, if you interfere with their work, record in restricted areas, or use the recordings for defamatory or illegal purposes, you could face legal consequences. It is essential to know your rights, but also the limitations and responsibilities associated with recording in public.


10. How does the Gag Law affect the recording of police actions?

The Citizen Security Law, popularly known as the "Gag Law", introduces sanctions for those who record or disseminate images of law enforcement officers with the purpose of endangering their safety or that of protected facilities. It does not generally prohibit recording the police, but penalizes its dissemination when it threatens the security of the officer. This ambiguity has generated debates and controversies about its interpretation and how it affects the right to information and freedom of expression.


11. What is the difference between recording in a public space and a private space?

The main difference lies in privacy expectations. In public spaces, generally, there is a lower expectation of privacy, so recording is usually more permissible. However, in private spaces, such as a home or business, the expectation of privacy is higher. Recording in private spaces without consent can incur privacy violations and may be illegal, unless there is a legitimate reason and the necessary consent.


12. Can I use the recordings as evidence in case of police abuse?

Yes, the recordings can serve as evidence in cases of alleged police abuse. These can help corroborate testimonies and offer a visual and/or auditory representation of the facts. However, for a recording to be admitted as evidence, it must meet certain legal criteria and not have been obtained illegally. It is advisable to have the advice of a lawyer to ensure that the recording is admitted in a judicial process.


13. Is there a difference between recording with video and recording only audio?

Yes, there are differences in perception and possible legal interpretations. While video provides a visual representation of events, audio only captures sound. Audio recording can be considered more invasive in certain contexts, as private conversations can be recorded without the parties knowing. Legally, in some jurisdictions, recording audio without the consent of all parties involved may be illegal, while recording video in public places is more permissible.


14. What recommendations should I follow if I decide to record a police officer?

If you decide to record a police officer, it's important to stay calm and act carefully. Make sure you don't interfere with its functions. Stay at a safe distance, do not make sudden movements and avoid provocations. Politely inform the agent that you are recording. Keep the material in a safe place and consider making abackup. Finally, if you feel that your rights are being violated, seek legal advice.