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Police in several U.S. states have begun arresting people who videotape or photograph them using a creative legal interpretation. The ban and arrest come after the capture of recent police brutality incidents, such as the beating of William Cardenas in 2008.  (Source: YouTube)

Police claim that citizens have no right to videotape them, some lawyers argue otherwise.  (Source: Bolger Now)
"You will respect my authoritah!"

Chalk photography up as the latest freedom to become endangered in the United States.  Wiretapping or eavesdropping laws conveniently provide police justification for arresting those who video tape or snap pictures of them acting in public locations as they forbid citizens from "obstructing law enforcement". 

Now the most extreme example of photography crackdown yet has occurred.  A man named Francisco Olvera was having a house party and was confronted by a local cop.  The cop entered his house.  Olvera photographed the cop and was promptly arrested.  
Courthouse News reports:

Olvera says the trouble started when Alderete responded to a complaint of loud music coming from his home. In front of the home, Alderete asked Olvera to show identification and as Olvera walked into his house to get it, Alderete followed him in.
"Olvera did not believe that Alderete had the authority to enter Olvera's residence and, therefore, took a picture of Alderete using his cell phone," the complaint states.
Olvera claims that Alderete saw a can of beer on a kitchen counter, next to Olvera's wallet, and immediately handcuffed him.

Olvera was detained on charges of illegal photography, public intoxication, and loud music.  Since the arrest he has been acquitted of all charges and now is seeking punitive damages from the city for violation of his rights.

Many courts on a state level have ruled that taking videos or photos of police using your phone qualifies as obstruction.

A rash of YouTube videos and pictures have captured police brutality in various areas, but now police have the legal means to threaten those who might snitch them out.  In many areas even if you are snapping photos or video to use in your own defense, you will face additional charges and the media evidence will be disallowed.

Legal scholar and professor Jonathan Turley is among the members of the legal community fighting these provisions on the grounds that they represent a gross violation of Constitutional and legislatively-guaranteed freedoms.  Turley states, "The police are basing this claim on a ridiculous reading of the two-party consent surveillance law - requiring all parties to consent to being taped. I have written in the area of surveillance law and can say that this is utter nonsense."

While the Olvera case seems closed -- other than this pending lawsuit -- the battle over whether citizens should be able to photograph or video tape police in public or in private (in their homes) is unlikely to go away.  It would not be surprising if the U.S. Supreme Court at some point is forced to rule on this issue.  At that point, we may finally know, once and for all, whether U.S. citizens have lost this freedom and means of accountability.





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