First Amendment
First Amendment Retaliation
Immunity and Accountability

Sharpe v. Winterville

Brief Details

Author
Tori Clark
PIA and 4th Amendment Intake Coordinator
Date Filed
11/09/2021
Original Court
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
Current Court
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals

Dijon Sharpe sued police officers in Winterville, North Carolina, after the officers prevented him from filming a traffic stop via livestream. Now, the Fourth Circuit will decide whether an officer who physically assaulted Mr. Sharpe while attempting to stop the recording can be held accountable for violating Mr. Sharpe’s First Amendment rights. IJ filed an amicus brief urging judges to give Mr. Sharpe his day in court by recognizing that the First Amendment clearly protects the right to record police performing their duties in public.

The Fourth Circuit held that qualified immunity applied, reasoning—despite IJ’s argument to the contrary—that livestreaming is different enough from other kinds of recording that a reasonable officer would not have known that it was protected by the First Amendment. However, the court also held that livestreaming is, in fact, constitutionally protected—meaning that qualified immunity will not be available to officers on that basis in future Fourth Circuit cases.