"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." --Bishop Desmond Tutu

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The right not to be photographed

(UPDATED WITH LINK) In Lancaster City, PA, the police department just learned an expensive lesson. After 150 days of illegal incarceration, a man has won a federal lawsuit against the police department for illegally detaining him after he refused to allow them to photograph him without probable cause.
A settlement was reached last week in the federal lawsuit filed by Bush, 24, of Philadelphia, against the Lancaster City Bureau of Police and Officer Ray M. Corll II, in August 2007. The lawsuit stemmed from an incident that occurred May 17, 2007, when Bush was helping a cousin and his girlfriend move out of a home on the 300 block of Plum Street.
When it was Bush's turn [to be photographed], he said he didn't want his photo taken and raised his hands to cover his face. Bush was then "subdued" by Officer Corll, which caused Bush to cut his face on the pavement, according to court documents.

Following treatment at Lancaster General Hospital, Bush had his picture taken — after police had placed him under arrest, charged with obstruction of justice.

Bush spent 160 days in jail, in Lancaster and Montgomery counties. When the case finally went to trial, the judge listened to opening arguments, then granted the motion made by Bush's attorney to dismiss the charges.
As a result of this, rules in Lancaster have been changed.
[The new guideline] states that "field photographs" of the general public can be taken anywhere the public has no expectation of privacy — such as on a city street or in a shopping mall — and photos may be taken anytime a subject voluntarily gives consent.

However, "Individuals may not be required to remove their hands, or anything they are using to cover their faces so as to avoid being photographed."
The Police cannot photograph you, absent probable cause, without your consent. (Tip-o-the-hat to Photography is Not a Crime!)

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