Photographing things in plain view and in public places: An American Constitutional right.
There is wide-spread talk and patterns of abuse, as some law enforcement officers allegedly, are ordering people (which is not legal) to stop taking photographs in public places, harassing and detaining them and even arresting those who fail to comply. Transportation facilities, police officials, Government officials on the job, federal buildings, and such. It is important for people/photographers to understand their rights in days like today, and also for photographers, pro and citizen alike to stand up for these, the most basics of freedoms.
Americans: Our rights as photographers
- Photographing anything in plain view while in public space(s) is legal as long as you are lawfully present, this is every photographers right in America. This includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Oversights like these were put in place as a public’s of ”watching over the government,” a check and balance type system that is the peoples oversight over the government an important in a free society.
- While on private property, the property owner sets the rules about your taking of photographs. Disobey the property owner’s and they can order you off their property and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not leave.
- Police may not generally confiscate or demand to view your photographs without a warrant.If arrested, the contents of your camera or cell phone may be “looked over” by the police, (A good idea might be to lock your images from view if possible with your brand of camera) Their constitutional power to do so remains unsettled. It is also a possibility that courts may approve the seizure of a camera or cell phone in some circumstances, provided the police have reasonable, and good-faith beliefs that they contains evidence of crime by someone other than the police themselves (This whole issue is unsettled whether they still need a warrant to view them according to an article I read on the ACLU web site.)
- Police officers can legitimately order citizens to cease activities if they are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations. This is important to understand as well, “Use common sense and don’t be a bother to the police) Professional officers, realize that such operations are subject to public scrutiny, by pro photographers and everyday citizens.
- Not under any circumstances are Police allowed to delete your photographs or video . Note that the right to photograph public spaces does not give you a right to break other laws. If trespassing when taking photographs, you may still be charged with trespass; again, common sense.
The ACLU and Photographers Rights:
You can support the ACLU or read more about the defending of free speech, photographing of public spaces and a broad range of other civil liberties if you so choose. The following are more tips from the ACLU.org web site.
- Never physically resist a police officer, always remain polite.
- 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.
- Considerations when videotaping:With regards to videotaping, there is a whole other set of rules, a visit to the ACLU web site should explain these differences.
Photographing public places: New York Times.
With police known to be harassing and arresting photographers for violating “nonexistent laws,” the NYPD is making it clear, “shooting photos is perfectly legal.” Score one for America! The department issued an order to all officers, reminding them that,
“Photography and the videotaping of public places, buildings and structures are common activities within New York City . . . and is rarely unlawful.” The order also makes clear that officers cannot “demand to view photographs taken by a person . . . or direct them to delete or destroy images.” |NY Post|
Common Sense: a Big Daddy photography 101 lesson. We don’t have rights to do as we please, but taking pictures legally - Click away kids, click away!