Oct 27, 2011

ACLU Sues Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

 "If you have rights and you don’t try to exercise them, then you have no rights at all.” - Yao Bo, Chinese social commentator

Once again the ACLU steps up to defend photographers from overzealous and illegal harassment of photographers. The Los Angeles Times reports that the ACLU has sued the sheriff’s department and several of its deputies on October 27,  alleging they harassed, detained and improperly searched photographers taking pictures legally in public places.

In response, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker made a statement that perfectly captures the police department's ignorance of the rights of photographers: "Should we really ignore suspicious activity?" Parker asked. "We have an obligation to the public to answer questions and we are going to ask people why are you taking that picture. It is our duty to protect the public."

Photography is not a crime. It is a form of free expression. It should not be treated as suspicious.

LINK to story

The ACLU has a page that describe your rights under the law when taking pictures, see it HERE.  Consider making a donation to the ACLU HERE. 

Florida Recording Law

Florida is a two-party consent state, meaning you must have permission of both parties before recording any encounter (such as a police stop, or a conversation on a sidewalk). 

However, there is a very important exception: all parties need to have an expectation of privacy in order for the act to be lawful. In short, if you are in public or in a place where your conversation might reasonably be overheard by someone else, having to obtain consent from all parties does not apply.

The Citizen media Law Project has a lot of very good information about Florida law and recording others in public. Check it out HERE.

In a related case, Chris Geo recently won dismissal of charges after being arrested for photographing a FEMA warehouse. As Chris Geo points out in the excellent video below,  "Unless we claim them [our rights], we don't have them." The video covers the three things which can happen to you during a police encounter, and how Geo won dismissal of his case. It's a long video but filled with good information.

Defending himself, he skillfully pointed out the flaws in the state's case:
  1. It is not illegal for a person to film a federal building (which the government was forced to concede in a previous court case, link HERE)
  2. Geo was arrested for refusing to provide his driver's license; there is no state, local or federal law requiring a citizen to have a driver's license. Indeed, lots of people do not drive, or have driver's licenses. Would that subject them to arrest?
  3. There is no state, local or federal law requiring a citizen to present a driver's license to an officer on demand
  4. The arresting officer did not indicate the encounter moved from a voluntary field interview to a Terry stop, which would require reasonable suspicion, or probable cause (read more about what a Terry stop is HERE)

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