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Defamation Claims for Television Arrests

If you're arrested, do the cops have the automatic right to video while you're being questioned and show that video on TV?

By
Michael W. Flynn
October 24, 2008

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First, a disclaimer: Although I am an attorney, the legal information in this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for seeking personalized legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Further, I do not intend to create an attorney-client relationship with any listener.

Today’s topic is television libel and slander. Steve from Massachusetts wrote:

Some friends and I last night saw an episode of Cops where they purport to show real life video of people being chased and arrested. Is this legal? If you're arrested, do the cops have the automatic right to video while you're being questioned and show that video on TV? Couldn't that be considered libel or slander, especially since the people on [Cops] haven't even been accused of a crime, yet?

Thanks Steve. The short answer is that a person depicted on a television show being arrested does not likely have a good defamation case against the television station. The person might have a case for invasion of privacy, but not likely. The quick and dirty tip is simply to assume that all encounters with the police are being recorded.

To successfully win a claim for the tort of defamation, you must prove the unprivileged publication of a fact that is false and has the tendency to injure your reputation. Defamation can be in the form of slander, which is generally spoken, or libel, which is generally written. Statements that accuse a person of a crime are always deemed to be slanderous.

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