St. Mary's sheriff's deputies responding to a noise complaint last weekend at a Lexington Park neighborhood report that they seized a woman's cell phone and charged her with illegally recording a conversation.
Yvonne Nicole Shaw, 27, was taken to the St. Mary's jail after her arrest shortly after midnight Saturday at Colony Square, and a court commissioner ordered that she be released on personal recognizance.
Sheriff's Cpl. Patrick Handy wrote in a statement of probable cause that he was talking to people in the neighborhood when he and another deputy spotted Shaw standing about 12 feet away and holding her cell phone "in a manner suggesting she was recording our activity."
Handy seized the cell phone, reviewed its camcorder content and "could hear my voice and the voices of the other subjects I was talking to," the officer wrote in the charging papers, and he questioned Shaw.
"She did admit to recording our encounter on her cell phone," the corporal wrote, "for the purpose of trying to show the police are harassing people."
Shaw said Tuesday that she recorded the incident to show the conduct of the law officers.
"I honestly did not know that I was not able to do that," Shaw said. "He just snatched my phone from me and locked me up."
St. Mary's Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron (R) said Monday that the case will be presented to county prosecutors.
"They're going to have to review the statement of charges and the officer's report to see whether they want to prosecute the case," the sheriff said.
A conviction for the felony offense of unlawful interception of communication carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
St. Mary's State's Attorney Richard D. Fritz (R) said Tuesday that "one may not surreptitiously record another person," but that the law's nuances arose during an investigation of former President Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, whose comments about the relationship were recorded by another woman, Linda Tripp. A charge against Tripp of violating the Maryland law was dismissed because that particular statute requires proof that the defendant knows the law.
"The person [making the recording] has to have a fair degree of knowledge that what they're doing is unlawful," Fritz said.
"Cell phones are so pervasive," the prosecutor said, "that recording something that occurs in public raises a question of whether or not it's unlawful. If I'm convinced this was a public encounter that just happened to be recorded, I probably will not proceed with the prosecution. The facts will probably bear out that it was not a private one-on-one conversation."