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
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.
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.
claims that Alderete saw a can of beer on a kitchen counter, next to
Olvera's wallet, and immediately handcuffed him.
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.
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."
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.