[mgj-discuss] Fw: ACLU: Know Your Rights: Photographers
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
> 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
- *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
*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
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the mgj-discuss