Frequently Asked Questions
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1. What does the Mobile Justice CA smartphone app do?
The app, available in the App Store and Google Play, allows users to record law enforcement, to alert other Mobile Justice CA app users to nearby law enforcement encounters and to submit videos and incident reports automatically to the ACLU of California. Individuals who believe that they have witnessed a civil rights violation can complete an incident report and send it to the ACLU for review, along with their contact information, for follow-up. For more details, see How It Works.
2. Does the app have any other features?
Mobile Justice CA contains ACLU Know Your Rights publications, including an overview of the rights individuals have when stopped by law enforcement, giving app users a library of ACLU materials in their pocket. Individuals can also opt to receive ACLU news and action alerts.
3. Is Mobile Justice CA available in multiple languages?
The app is currently available in English and Spanish.
4. Who developed and/or paid for Mobile Justice CA?
ACLU of California and Quadrant 2 developed the app, which was funded in part through donations by Susan Adelman and Claudio Llanos.
5. Is the Mobile Justice CA app free?
Users can download the app at no cost. The goal of Mobile Justice CA is to help ensure that everyone can exercise their First Amendment rights by recording misconduct by law enforcement and other government officials. The ACLU believes that in order to reach that goal the app must be available to everyone, without a fee.
6. Can this app be used in classrooms, polling places and other settings?
Mobile Justice CA is principally meant to be used to document law enforcement interactions with members of the public, but may apply to encounters with other government officials.
As with any recording device, there may be legal restrictions on its use in other situations. California is a two-party consent state, which means that it is a crime to create an audio recording of a conversation where other parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy without the consent of all parties to the conversation. State law also prohibits video recording in polling places and generally in classrooms. Students are prohibited from using electronic recording devices in school without prior consent of school officials.
However, filming police officers and other law enforcement interacting with the public in the course of their duties is legal, as officers have no reasonable expectation of privacy when they interact with the public. Additionally, state law permits individuals to use recording devices at a public meeting so long as the recording is not deemed to disrupt the proceeding.
While video recording is prohibited in some limited situations, users who witness misconduct by a government official or a civil rights violation can opt to use the report function to submit incident forms to the ACLU.
7. Will ACLU attorneys review all of the footage and incident reports?
ACLU attorneys will review videos if the corresponding incident report indicates that a serious civil rights violation has occurred.
8. Can ACLU share the incident reports with the public?
The incident report forms that users fill out are confidential and privileged communications akin to legal intake forms. The ACLU may share and publicize general facts documented in the reports, absent identifying information, in order to expose misconduct by law enforcement and further the ACLU’s mission of protecting civil liberties.
Videos sent to the ACLU are not privileged. The ACLU may share videos with community organizations or the general public to help call attention to law enforcement abuse and protect civil rights and civil liberties.
9. How will ACLU use the information it receives?
The ACLU will review incident reports and the accompanying videos to determine whether to provide legal assistance to users. The ACLU may also publicize incidents of law enforcement misconduct and share videos and other information with community organizations or the public.
10. How long will the ACLU keep information we receive through Mobile Justice CA?
The ACLU may delete the information you send.
11. Can users contact the ACLU after they submit a report to confirm that the ACLU received it or to ask the ACLU to represent them in a lawsuit?
Individuals can contact us at [email protected] to find out the status of a report. Individuals can also call their local ACLU affiliate’s legal intake line to discuss an incident.
12. Can immigrants, including those who lack authorization to be in the U.S., use Mobile Justice CA?
Yes. Everyone has the same rights when interacting with law enforcement regardless of immigration status. However, users should be aware that law enforcement encounters that result in arrest can result in authorities checking that person’s immigration status, which could lead to deportation.
13. Will users retain a copy of the video on their phone?
Mobile Justice CA stores videos on a user’s smartphone, and sends a duplicate video to the ACLU.
14. Is Mobile Justice available in other states?
Versions of the Mobile Justice CA app are currently available in 17 other states and Washington, D.C. See the current list. There are plans for other states to roll out the app. Please contact your local ACLU.
Officially, Mobile Justice CA is intended for use by people in California. However, the app does work in other states and will send videos and reports to an ACLU of California office. If you do use Mobile Justice CA outside of California, we will forward your submissions to your local ACLU if there appears to be a civil rights issue.
It is important to note that the Know Your Rights materials in the app, including (and especially) those about interacting with and video recording police are tailored to California state law. Other states may have different state laws that affect your rights, including your right to film police. Do not rely on the Know Your Rights materials outside of California. You can check with your local ACLU office to see if they have relevant materials.