First Amendment Right To Photograph Police
And here’s the big holding that photographers who are not members of the press should pay specific attention to:
The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public’s right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press. (my emphasis)
While this case is a First Circuit Court of Appeals case, the basic tenants of First Amendment case law cited by the court come from Supreme Court cases. As a result, photographers across the nation should feel a little better that this case has reached an appellate court and delivered this result.
Hopefully, this case will reach the desk of police chiefs across the US and will cause their departments to develop policies and training that acknowledges the fundamental right of any person to photograph or record police activity.
Listen up citizen, a photographer is not a terrorist, and violating a photographer’s rights might land you in court, a lawsuit, or in jail. So pay attention.
It started before the 9/11 tragedy, but has really bloomed in it’s aftermath. I’m talking about the harassment of photographers pursuing their craft, or hobby. All over the nation photographers are being bullied, told they may not take pictures, and it has gone so far that people are calling the police if they see someone out taking pictures. Photographers are being physically accosted. Photographers are being arrested without cause.
THE PHOTOGRAPHER”S RIGHTS
THE RIGHT TO PHOTOGRAPH COPS
Taking photographs and video of things that are plainly visible in public spaces is a constitutional right — and that includes the outside of federal buildings, as well as transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties.
However, there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs or video in public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply. The ACLU, photographer’s groups, and others have been complaining about such incidents for years — and consistently winning in court. Yet, a continuing stream of incidents of illegal harassment of photographers and videographers makes it clear that the problem is not going away. In the spring of 2011 alone, the list of incidents included these cases:( check link below)
Many of those involved in these incidents appear to be activists who know their rights and are willing to stand up for them. But not everyone is able to stand up to police officers when harassed; we don’t know how many other Americans comply with baseless orders to stop photographing or recording because they are uncertain of their rights or too afraid to stand up for them.
There was some good news recently concerning the civil rights of photographers. It happened in Maryland where a Judge dismissed charges against a photographer who shot a video of police and posted it on YouTube.
The judge stated “Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation.”