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'Cops' and Suspects' Rights: Whatcha Gonna Do When They Record You?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Nobody wants to end up on "Cops," but those who appear on the long-running reality TV show do have some legal rights.

"Cops" will soon begin a 10-week filming stretch in San Jose, California, for the first time in the show's 26-year history, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The "Cops" crew will hit the streets alongside San Jose's finest to provide a window into what these men and women do in America's 10th largest city.

As for the "bad boys" (and girls) caught on video, what rights do they have when being filmed for an episode of "Cops?"

Most 'Cops' Arrestees Sign Release Forms

When the officers on "Cops" arrest most of their suspects, the circumstances leading up to the arrest are out in public. However, in order to avoid unlawfully appropriating the images of those caught on "Cops'" cameras, the crew asks the arrestees to sign a release form.

These waiver or release forms give "Cops" producers permission to show persons caught on camera without blurring out their faces. Suspects may have resisted at first, but once the show became a hit, more than 90 percent of arrestees have signed release forms to have their faces appear on "Cops." Mental_Floss reports that in later seasons, the show has apparently been editing out suspects who didn't release their publicity rights rather than blur their faces.

That means if you're caught on camera by the "Cops" crew, you will not appear unblurred on the show unless you agree to sign a release. If not, your footage may be left on the cutting room floor.

Can 'Cops' Cameras Enter Your Home?

Like displaying your face on "Cops," the show needs permission in order to broadcast you, your spouse, or your children on TV. It's a larger question whether film crews can follow police into a home.

Entering a home without permission can be considered criminal trespassing. Although law enforcement may be legally permitted to enter a home without permission while chasing a suspect, the same exceptions may not apply to "Cops" camera operators.

That means if a "Cops" crew appears at your door, you may legally allow police officers in while refusing a camera crew. If the crew ignores your requests or barges in while police are chasing a suspect, you may be able to sue them for trespassing.

So if you feel like you were bullied into appearing as a suspect on "Cops," whatcha gonna do? You may want to call an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal options.

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