[mgj-discuss] Fw: ACLU: Know Your Rights: Photographers

nadine bloch nbloch at igc.org
Wed Sep 14 07:41:00 EDT 2011


Know Your Rights: Photographers
Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is
a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation
facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their
duties. Unfortunately, there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law
enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public
places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply. Learn
more >><http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/you-have-every-right-photograph-cop>
   > Article: Law Enforcement Harrassment of
   > Learn More: Filming and Photographing
   *Your rights as a photographer: *

   - *When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the
   right to photograph anything that is in plain view.* That includes
   pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Such
   photography is a form of public oversight over the
is important in a free society.
   - *When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules
   about the taking of photographs.* If you disobey the property owner's
   rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for
   trespassing if you do not comply).
   - *Police officers may not generally confiscate or demand to view your
   photographs or video without a warrant.* If you are arrested, the
   contents of your phone may be scrutinized by the police, although their
   constitutional power to do so remains
   In addition, it is possible that courts may approve the seizure of a camera
   in some circumstances if police have a reasonable, good-faith belief that it
   contains evidence of a crime by someone other than the police themselves (it
   is unsettled whether they still need a warrant to view them).
   - *Police may not delete your photographs or video under any
   circumstances. *
   - *Police officers may legitimately order citizens to cease activities
   that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement
operations.*Professional officers, however, realize that such
operations are subject to
   public scrutiny, including by citizens photographing them.
   - *Note that the right to photograph does not give you a right to break
   any other laws.* For example, if you are trespassing to take photographs,
   you may still be charged with trespass.

*If you are stopped or detained for taking photographs: *

   - Always remain polite and never physically resist a police officer.
   - If stopped for photography, the right question to ask is, "am I free to
   go?" If the officer says no, then you are being detained, something that
   under the law an officer cannot do without reasonable suspicion that you
   have or are about to commit a crime or are in the process of doing so. Until
   you ask to leave, your being stopped is considered voluntary under the law
   and is legal.
   - If you are detained, politely ask what crime you are suspected of
   committing, and remind the officer that taking photographs is your right
   under the First Amendment and does not constitute reasonable suspicion of
   criminal activity.

*Special considerations when videotaping: *
With regards to videotaping, there is an important legal distinction between
a visual photographic record (fully protected) and the *audio* portion of a
videotape, which some states have tried to regulate under state wiretapping

   - Such laws are generally intended to accomplish the important
   privacy-protecting goal of prohibiting audio "bugging" of private
   conversations. However, in nearly all cases audio recording the police is
   - In states that allow recording with the consent of just one party to
   the conversation, you can tape your own interactions with officers without
   violating wiretap statutes (since you are one of the parties).
   - In situations where you are an observer but not a part of the
   conversation, or in states where all parties to a conversation must consent
   to taping, the legality of taping will depend on whether the state's
   prohibition on taping applies only when there is a reasonable expectation of
   privacy. But that is the case in nearly all states, and no state court has
   held that police officers performing their job in public have a reasonable
   expectation. The state of Illinois makes the recording illegal regardless of
   whether there is an expectation of privacy, but the ACLU of Illinois is
   challenging that statute in court as a violation of the First Amendment.
   - The ACLU believes that laws that ban the taping of public officials'
   public statements without their consent violate the First Amendment. A
   summary of state wiretapping laws can be found

*Photography at the airport*
Photography has also served as an important check on government power in the
airline security context.
The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) acknowledges that photography is
permitted in and around airline security checkpoints as long as you're not
interfering with the screening process. The agency does
its security monitors not be photographed, though it is not clear
whether they have any legal basis for such a restriction when the monitors
are plainly viewable by the traveling public.
The TSA also warns that local or airport regulations may impose restrictions
that the TSA does not. It is difficult to determine if any localities or
airport authorities actually have such rules. If you are told you cannot
take photographs in an airport you should ask what the legal authority for
that rule is.

*The ACLU does not believe that restrictions on photography in the public
areas of publicly operated airports are constitutional. ** *
If you think your rights have been violated at an airport, let us know


Filming and Photographing the


You Have Every Right to Photograph That
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