Photographers rights advice for a reader?

This question was sent in by a regular commenter – not being a professional photographer or anything I don’t know the answers but I’m sure someone reading this might – anyone have any advice? I know this topic has been covered here in the past but since this is a specific question about a specific situation I thought I’d post it. Please post replies in the comments. The reader asks…

“One of my friends is a photographer. On Friday evening, he was taking photographs for the wire service he works for at the Hollywood and Highland subway to show the stepped up security in the wake of the London bombings. The LA sheriffs took his camera and handcuffed him. They searched him and went through his wallet. They interrogated him about why he was taking photographs and also where his parents were born (he was born in the USA, but his father is from the Middle East). They let him go, but returned to his residence at 3am on Saturday to further question him and verify his ID matched his address. This was a violation of his civil rights, and he is apprehensive of speaking up but I am encouraging him to stand up for his rights. Who is the person he should tell this to? His councilman, the mayor, his congressman?”

4 Replies to “Photographers rights advice for a reader?”

  1. I’m with you up until the “this was a violation of his civil rights”. As long as they gave him his camera back when they released him, I don’t see any major violations happening in this instance. Holding for questioning is allowed. Visiting him at home to verify / follow up seems ok. Not sure specifically which rights he considers violated…

  2. They handcuffed him, rifled through his personal belongings, interrogate him, and *then* show up at his house at 3am for more questioning, and you *DON’T* see that as a violation of civil rights? Geez. Civil rights now seem to have a “when convenient” clause attached to them. What’s most surprising is how willing a large number of Americans are to give them up. It’s sad really how unimportant these rights are to so many.

  3. Definitely read over the ACLU bust card (which is in that earlier post about photography rights).

    http://www.aclu.org/Files/getFile.cfm?id=10042

    The most important piece of advice is to not allow the officers into his home. That opens up the whole thing about “plain sight” if they want to have a look around the place (I know, I probably watch too much Law & Order, but that is how it works). Once the office has verified (at his door) that he is in fact the same person, he can tell them that they can make an appointment ot interview him at the station.

    Also, they cannot seize his camera or film/datacard. At this time it is not illegal to take photos in the subway.

    The person in question might also want to get some sort of card or something from a trade association that shows that he’s a member of the press … it certainly can’t hurt to be able to show evidence of his profession on site instead of later at his home.

    The ACLU’s hotline is 1-877-6-PROFILE, maybe just calling it to talk it over with the people there will help to log the event.

  4. Which civil rights were impeded upon? The answer is simple. 1st Amendment and 4th Amendment rights. From what I gather, thus far, the ACLU is not taking on too many cases regarding violations of the 4th Amendment. ((Please correct me if I am wrong here)).

    In addition to the crude and obvious violation of civil rights in this *case*; consider the future repurcussions (especially mentally) that the photographer in question will suffer in reference to this experience.

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