Generally speaking, you are allowed to record police in Virginia while they are carrying out their official duties. However, there is a chance that your phone or camera could be confiscated if it contains evidence of a crime or if you are being taken into custody yourself.
How to respond to a request to relinquish your phone
If you have been asked to hand over your phone, it may be necessary to do so even if complying with such a request violates your civil rights. In some cases, failing to comply with an officer’s demands could result in being taken into custody. However, you do have the right to ask the officer if he or she has a warrant to take the phone or if you can consult with a lawyer before doing so.
It is important to note that a warrant will be needed to unlock a phone if it is protected by a password. This may be enough to convince an officer to not take your phone without a valid reason to do so.
What to do if your phone has been taken
There is a chance that you could get your phone back simply by asking for it to be returned. In some cases, you may be able to get your device back by agreeing to delete any footage taken of an officer. However, you are under no obligation to delete any footage that was recorded in a lawful manner. If you are unable to get your property back, it may be a good idea to speak with a civil rights attorney.
If you are taken into custody for refusing to hand over your phone or other property, it may be worthwhile to hire a criminal defense attorney. He or she may be able to use images or videos on your phone to prove that you were acting within your rights while interacting with an officer. This might result in criminal charges being dropped or reduced through a plea deal.