Shining a Light on the Bill of Rights and US Constitution

Detained For Photography

July 3, 2010 7:30pm

So, there I was, cigar in hand with camera in tote. I was walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, in the Georgetown section of the District of Columbia. After a fun and fulfilled day of taking pictures in DC, I was heading home and observed a traffic stop. I put out my cigar and started to take pictures from across the street.


After a few pictures, I started to move across the street to the same side as the stop. I was more than 15 feet away from the squad car and far enough not to impede in any police investigation.

I was to take a few shots and move on, but that’s not what happened, far from that. I was asked for “security reasons” why I was taking pictures. I told the officer that I just wanted to collect pictures of the traffic stop for a collection, he asked for ID and in return I asked “am I being detained or am I free to leave” after dancing around the question, he finally stated that I was free to go. As he walked away another officer stated that I was being detained and that I needed to provide identification. She told me to put me camera away and stop recoding.

WAIT, all of the premise that I was taking pictures of a traffic stop?

I was told by four officers  that it is “illegal and unlawful” to take pictures of people without prior consent on a public street, and unlawful to take pictures of the police without authorization from the DCPD PIO (Public Information Officer).

That of course is false, in public people do not have an expectation of privacy.

I was also told that I could not “record people, you need permission first” and one officer was quick to say “you don’t have mine”. Whats funny is the officer that informed me that I could not record people, pulled out her camera phone and started to audio and video recorded me. So, did she break the “law” that does not exist? The reality is , Washington, DC is a one party consent “state” in accordance with D.C. Code Ann. § 23-542. In a nut shell, this means as long as one party consents to the conversation being recorded (self) you can record.

Even supervisors were on the wagon, not knowing the laws that they swore to in force.

When all said and done I was detained, my information ran through NCIC and publicly embarrassed, by 4 police vehicles, and 10 officers. Oh, did I mention that DC has a extremely high crime rate? Four of the six officers that we hanging out could have been responding to calls for assistance, yet they were wasting time and tax payer dollars.

102 responses

  1. Pingback: Photographer Captures DC’s Finest «

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  3. Anonymous

    File a complaint with the District of Columbia’s Office of Police Complaints.

    July 10, 2010 at 5:37 pm

  4. This is appalling. I’d like to see officers suspended without pay for a month for attempting to enforce any laws that don’t actually exist. It undermines the entire legal system each time they do it.

    July 10, 2010 at 9:30 pm

  5. Dave

    There’s some truth to both sides. The police can say they had probably cause to ask for ID based on the fact that they are often target for revenge for arresting people or just for being police officers (remember those officers in Seattle for example). But I agree with you….you do have the right to take their photo. But do keep in mind that they have the right to ask you for ID if they can articulate probably cause. And sadly for both (police and photographers), taking pictures of police doing their job can be viewed as probably cause for the officer’s safety. Both sides need to respect the other’s position on that one. Sounds like the officers need to know more about the law though.

    July 10, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    • A police officer can ask for ID but, unless they have probable cause you don’t have to show ID, you are legally not required to carry ID unless you are driving.

      Read for education on your rights.

      July 12, 2010 at 6:23 pm

      • Dave

        Yes and no…..true, you are not required to carry ID in DC if you’re out walking around. However if a police officer stops you and asks you your name or other identifying informaiton, you must tell them. If the answer is “reasonable”, they have to take you on your word. But keep in mind that if you give them false information and they determine that it’s false by running the informaiton through the computers (or if it happens to match the info for a wanted person), you’re going to have a problem. If you say you’re the Easter Bunny, you’re going to have a problem. Your best bet is always to be honest with the officers and just talk to them to find out why they are stopping you. A little diplomacy goes a long way….and that goes for the police and civilians.

        July 12, 2010 at 6:46 pm

      • I agree, giving false information to law enforcement is a crime. As you stated, you have to provide a name, address, and possibly a social security number. Thanks for your comments.

        July 12, 2010 at 6:51 pm

      • former cop

        how about quoting actual DC LAW and not a lame commie web site

        July 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm

      • Why don’t you since you were a former DC cop.

        July 12, 2010 at 9:50 pm

  6. Pingback: Police Again Stop Photography on Public Street | George Sheldon's Blog

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  9. Paul

    Taking a camera to someone’s face from just 15 feet (5 steps) away is enough to make anyone feel threatened. Lucky for you, the people you were bullying were police officers, so instead of punching you in the face and smashing your camera against the side of a building they detained you and later let you go on your way so that you could write in your blog.

    July 12, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    • Geo

      Really ? That would make you feel threatened ? Maybe YOU need some therapy to alleviate your fear syndrom. Now go take two prince valiums and get over yourself.

      July 12, 2010 at 10:22 pm

      • Dave

        As much as I disgaree with Paul, I disagree with you just as much for posting such an ignorant comment. I’m sure the officers in Seattle were not threatened by the guy in the restaurant with them…..until he pulled a gun out and killed all four of them. Ask any officer what a “routine” traffic stop is. I promise you that their answer will be that there is no such thing as a “routine” interaction with the public. Especially in a violent city like DC. I commend the officers for their vigiliance…..but suggest they get a refresher on the laws.

        July 12, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    • skinner city cyclist

      Geez…. you can smell the bacon emanating from Paul here. Of course, there are cops who are not douchebags, but the even the good ones cover up for those who are. But shame on young Vorus for bullying those ten armed cops…

      July 13, 2010 at 6:13 pm

  10. Pingback: Photog Claims He Was Detained for Snapping Pics |

  11. That’s terrible. I and a few friends of mine are trying to raise awareness around the eroding rights of the photographer so feel free to join us on and go shooting on the second Saturday in September.

    July 12, 2010 at 4:36 pm

  12. Who is policing the police?

    July 12, 2010 at 4:38 pm

  13. Dave

    How is taking pictures of a traffic stop “policing the police”? Let’s not make this into more than it is…..a case where officers need to be educated more about the laws they should have known in the first place. If I were him, I would write letters to the mayor’s office, Chief of Police, and the district commander. I believe that was the 2nd district. If nothing happens from that, then I’d consider filing a complaint….but I doubt that is really needed or would produce different results from notifying the individuals listed above.

    July 12, 2010 at 6:35 pm

  14. former cop

    You had no business taking pictures of the police on a traffic stop. That isn’t your business and you jeopardizing their public safety.

    It is a DC law you have to identification on you at all times, foreign nationals have to have their passport as well on them.

    You should remove these photos as well. I hope MPDC shuts you down.

    July 12, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    • Seeing that it sounds like you don’t know the law, I don’t know how you were a “former cop”. Firstly it’s MPD and how is taking pictures of a traffic stop as you say jeopardizing safety? The law is that you need to carry ID when driving. You do however need to provide a name and address when asked if you are detained. Learn the law.

      July 12, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    • James

      Obviously you do not know the law, and that being the case, you may have in fact been a cop. Seeing as it has been my experience that those who “uphold the law” know the least about it.

      This was a traffic stop, performed by the police (public servants) in public paid for vehicles, with public paid for uniforms and required accessories, and done on a public paid for street. If this is not he business of the public, I do not know what is.
      Besides all of that, he has a right to take pictures of anyone, at anytime as long as it is visible from a public area without the need to go to undue lengths (such as climbing a tree or standing atop a vehicle).
      Police have even less right to privacy than does a simple citizen waling down the street, as police are held to a higher standard as public servants.
      As for jeopardizing public safety, please articulate how taking pictures of the stop could possibly jeopardize their safety.

      There is no legal requirement in DC to carry your identification on you at all times, you need to have your license if you plan to drive, otherwise you need carry no papers proving your identity. If asked for identification for an articulable reason (meaning they have to have more than a “gut feeling”) then you should of course give your full legal name and if needed, Date of Birth. SS# is not required unless there are multiple entries for said name and DOB at which point it is allowable to ask for the last 4 of your SS to verify the correct result.

      Oh and finally, ITS MPD, not MPDC. Obviously you were not an officer.
      Obvious troll is obvious.

      July 12, 2010 at 6:10 pm

      • Thanks James, I concur.

        July 12, 2010 at 6:18 pm

      • Dave

        The Secret Service (and many other branches of public service) is paid for with taxpayers money, yet you can’t waltz into the White House or other government buildings and have unrestricted access. And the police do have the same rights to privacy as non-police officers. And just because the police are paid for by taxpayer’s $$, that does not mean that each police officer must answer to you and fulfil your requirements to your standards. You are not the boss of the police department.

        July 12, 2010 at 6:25 pm

      • Dave, when a person is in public they don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Courts have repeatedly ruled on this very issue.

        July 12, 2010 at 6:29 pm

      • James

        You are correct, the difference is that the President does not hold his cabinet meetings on the street corner in DC, if he did, we would all be welcome to attend. Secondly, the White House, is in fact a PRIVATE residence of the sitting President, and therefore subject to a different set of laws, but good slippery slope argument.

        As for the Secret service, I can certainly take pictures of them at any point they are in public, and I will not be detained, I know this because I have, on many past occasions done so.

        You are correct, the police have the same right to privacy as non police, meaning, that while in public they have no expectation of privacy and may at any time be photographed without the need to obtain permission from them.

        As for asking police to fulfill my requirements to my standards, I am not sure what you mean by this, if you take it to mean that I expect police to uphold the REAL law and not made up laws then yes, I expect them to fulfill those requirements to the standards to which they have sworn to uphold them.
        However, yes, I am the boss of the police department, it is my explicit duty as a citizen to report any abuse of power, misuse of police equipment or any infraction that an officer may do to his or her superiors for review and judgement. It is every citizens job to do this.
        In this way we are all the “boss” of the police.

        This is a clear case of the police either not knowing the law, or more than likely, knowing but not caring about the law while abusing police powers and wasting taxpayer monies.

        Note: I commented on my own post as there is no Reply button on Dave’s post.

        July 12, 2010 at 6:39 pm

      • Dave

        I agree……show me where I say that people in public should expect a measure of privacy? James seems to think that if you’re a police officer, you have surrendered your rights and have fewer rights than every other citizen in the country.

        July 12, 2010 at 6:41 pm

      • Dave

        So when the President is walking accross a public street, but the Secret service has the street blocked off, you’re saying it’s your right to walk past the police & Secret Service and go take a picture of the President? Good luck with that one!!!!

        I have commented repeatedly on the need for the officers involved to be educated on their misunderstanding of the law and commented in favor of the photographer’s right to take their picture in public. I won’t repeat myself on that topic.

        Each officer answers to a Sgt., who answers to a Lt., who answers to a Capt., who answers to an Inspector, who answers to a Commander, who answers to Assistant Chiefs and the Chief of Police, who answers to the Mayor. At no time in this process do you or I have a position of authority over a police officer. Bringing an officer’s misunderstanding of the law (as this was) or any of those other items you mentioned (which was not an issue in this incident) to the attention of his/her officials is being a good citizen…..not a boss or any position of authority.

        July 12, 2010 at 6:55 pm

      • James

        Dave, again you setup slippery slope arguments, what if this, what if that, I am not talking what if this or that, I am talking about and commenting on this post.
        However since you bring it up, if the area was blocked off, I would stay behind the line that was erected and simply use a longer lens and continue to take the picture I wanted.
        Or I would do what I have done many times in the past, known of the walk before hand, and used my contacts to secure me a place inside the barrier where I may photograph uninhibited.

        You mention I seem to think, please try to only speak on what you know, not what you think I am thinking.
        At no time did I say that an officer has less rights, I said that they are held to a higher standard, they know, or should know, the law, and to break it means that they have knowingly and openly broken a law, whereas a citizen being ignorant of the law, while still committing the infraction would be given a lesser sentence.
        This is stated in many cases where judges clearly state that other court officials and officers of the law are held to a higher standard of law as they are the ones who are to uphold it and therefore should be setting examples for citizens.

        I see we agree on the last part, as stated though, in a sense we are all “the boss” of the police in that it is everyones duty to report infractions of the law or abuse of power to an officers superior.
        When one of my employees skirts a regulation, I inform him of his infraction and report it to my own superiors if need be.
        I expect everyone of my employees to report any infractions they see directly to me.
        While I agree this does not make us “the boss”, I was simply giving you an example and showing you how your childish “your not the boss of me” response was in fact, incorrect.

        July 12, 2010 at 7:12 pm

      • Dave

        Yeah…you did say that police have less of a right to privacy than non-police at 6:10, 2nd paragraph, 9th line down – “Police have even less right to privacy than does a simple citizen waling down the street” Your words….not mine. And since those are your words, they clearly are what you’re thinking…..or were you not thinking when you typed that?

        What law did the officer break? As for saying “You’re not the boss of me”….I have no idea what you’re talking about there….I’m just pointing out that folks who think they hold some duty as an authority figure to question every single thing that the police do because they are paid from the town/city/state/or federal treasury is incorrect.

        July 12, 2010 at 7:26 pm

      • James

        You are correct, I did say that, however, it was to be taken as I stated later that they are held to a higher standard. I see I need to be much more careful with my words here.

        I am sure you agree that a preacher on the pulpit should not be breaking all 10 commandments while at the pulpit, similarly an officer on duty should not be making up laws on the spot.

        What law did the officer break, the officer stated it was illegal to take pictures of people on the street. Thereby insinuating that the OP was to be detained for breaking the law, this is tantamount to an unlawful detainment. Last I checked, that is against the law.

        You and I disagree on the last part, as citizens we have a duty to question and report every single illegal or abusive item any city official or for that matter, anyone, does.
        To think and act otherwise is to allow rampant corruption and crime. It simply makes you a willing tool for the corrupt.

        I am sure by now you ask what my qualifications for these thoughts are, 10 years USMC, 8 years LEO, 2 years Mayor, 5 years sitting Judge.

        If there is a law against it, and you break it, you are to be punished according to the law. If there is no law against something, and as an officer of the law you falsely state there is one, then you should be punished for the false statement.
        It really is cut and dry.

        The officers in this story were incorrect, clearly they need some desk time with some more training. If that does not work, then immediate dismissal is in order.

        July 12, 2010 at 7:49 pm

      • Dave

        Wow…nice to meet you Roy Pearson. You asked me to please try to only speak on what you know, not what you think I am thinking, and I assure you I never wondered what your qualifications are to be commenting on a photography blog so don’t spit your resume to me.….my 5 year old nephew has the qualifications to post his views on a photography blog (access to a computer with an internet connection).

        We don’t disagree on the need to report abuses or illegal act by police officers, but you believe that the officers broke the law when they clearly did not. They made a mistake about the reasoning that the officers had to detain the photographer and need some re-training, but no law was broken. There should be no dispute that the officer has a right to detain an individual to establish his/her identity when it comes to his/her safety as a police officer if they feel threatened. If you were a judge, you would know that. But based on your belief that the officers broke the law and you want to charge them with unlawful detainment (or kidnapping in some states), yet you have yet to hear the officer’s side of the incident or offer anything other than insinuation for this VERY serious charge…..of course that would explain why you’re no longer a judge. Well….that and your attempt to sue that nice dry cleaner for $54 million. I’m through with you.

        July 12, 2010 at 10:06 pm

      • James

        The name is James, that is all you need to know, I have no association with that ass hat Roy .

        July 12, 2010 at 11:26 pm

      • former cop

        hey dumbass: It is MPDC

        About the MPDC
        One of the ten largest local police agencies in the United States, the MPDC is the primary law enforcement agency for the District of Columbia. Founded in 1861, the MPDC of today is on the forefront of technological crime fighting advances, from highly developed advances in evidence analysis to state-of the-art-information technology. These modern techniques are combined with a contemporary community policing philosophy, referred to as Customized Community Policing. Community policing bonds the police and residents in a working partnership designed to organize and mobilize residents, merchants and professionals to improve the quality of life for all who live, work, and visit the Nation’s Capital.

        July 13, 2010 at 11:25 am

    • Geo

      You MAY have been a former cop, but from your statement, either you are lying or one of the stupidest cops that they had on their department. You probably were stuck down in the property room tagging stolen baby strollers for your career with a response like yours.

      July 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm

  15. Elaine

    Policing the police means, who is watching the police perform their duty correctly. The Police need to be aware of the laws more. This is true. Detaining you for taking pictures was wrong. Now, if they were in the middle of an investigation and you were impeding that or they thought you were part of the crime scene, I could see them acting that way. Nope. That’s not the case. It’s a case of besting the police officer, and he/she got pissed, and their crew came to the rescue to detain you and make your life miserable. Nya, nya, nya, nya, nya. So there. Sad, right? I want to see photographers rights be upheld by the law, not crushed by ignorance of the law.

    July 12, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    • Dave

      Being stopped by the police is not “…making your life miserable. Nya nya nya etc.” You have the right to take their photograph when they’re out in public and through the unique nature and risks associated with their job….they have the right to stop you and determine who you are and why you’re taking pictures of them. Like I said earlier….police officers are routinely targeted for revenge and for criminals wanting to break into the their cars and homes to steal police equipment. But taking photos of the police doing their job is not “policing the police”…..that’s just taking pictures of police officers.

      July 12, 2010 at 7:20 pm

      • Les

        Dave, could you please provide examples of police officers who have been “targeted for revenge and for criminals wanting to break into the their cars and homes to steal police equipment” where the perpetrators used photography of the police as part of their crime?

        And it seems to me that if you take a picture of a police officer and that police officer then expresses an incorrect understanding of the law, you have, indeed, “policed” the police, in that you have exposed their poor behavior.

        August 17, 2010 at 4:01 pm

  16. Elaine

    Being stopped by the police is making your life miserable if they are stopping you out of ignorance. They were ignorant of the law about the photographer’s rights. They have the right to stop you, but this particular case was a case of the officer being a total jerk. The first officer did the right thing. He solved the problem. The second one was a jerk. Period. A jerk is a jerk, even if it is a police officer.

    July 12, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    • I agree.

      July 12, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    • Dave

      No…the legal reason the officer gave was incorrect. You’re just assuming that the officer stopped the guy for absolutely no reason. That kind of generalization is no less ignorant than assuming that a black man walking towards me is going to rob me. My assumption that the stop was rooted in the officer wanting to establish a record of someone photographing officers for unknown reasons is based on a fact….officers are routinely targeted for revenge and property crimes. If I was a police officer and I was in that scenario, you better believe I would have stopped that photographer and determined who (s)he was. My safety and the safety of my family is every bit as important as your right to take my photo. The officer was well within their rights to stop him and verify his identity….the reason they gave was incorrect and is what needs to be addressed. And I fully support the rights of those officers as much as I support the rights of the photographer to take their picture.

      July 12, 2010 at 8:25 pm

  17. Elaine

    Well, Dave, at least you support the rights for the photographer. I was beginning to wonder. 😉
    I agree with officers checking on the guy photographing, but the detaining part was out of spite. That is what I detest.

    July 12, 2010 at 8:32 pm

  18. bj

    “officers are routinely targeted for revenge and property crimes.”

    That BS is not probable cause. In public – I have the RIGHT to photograph anything I can see with my eyes. There are very few exceptions and police being photographed is not one of them.

    July 12, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    • Dave

      Please show me where I said the photographer did not have a right to photograph the officers. Here’s a hint… won’t find it because I never said that or anything close to that.

      July 12, 2010 at 8:49 pm

  19. Dave

    I’ve made my support for the photographer clear in every post I’ve made. But I always read in articles and blogs how so many people always assume that all cops are bad and just out to f**k with people and abuse their authority. Yes…there are some bad cops out there who need to be fired/disciplined. There are also bad priests, accountants, etc. But there are lots of cops who do their job professionally and do what they can to keep the public safe and respond to calls when criminals go out and do what they’re going to do no matter how many cops there are. Anyone who doubts the police so much….go do a ride along wherever you live. Or better yet….go do a ride along in the worst areas. In DC….I bet that would be the 5th, 6th, or 7th districts. Or listen to the radio traffic when the MPD was chasing down and catching the thugs who slaughtered people several months ago off of South Capitol St. ( and tell me those officers weren’t doing an amazing job that 99.99% of the people out there would run from. Both sides need to be looked at. Like I said earlier….a little diplomacy goes a long way…for the police AND photographers.

    July 12, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    • Geo

      The problem with all of this is that law enforcement is like a big club. The officers stick together…..nothing wrong with that. But as you said, there are those who do abuse their authority THINKING that people are just “plain stupid” and that the cops can do what they want to.

      Well in this case, “detaining” an individual for taking photos in a public area was plain wrong and unwarranted.

      They shouldn’t try to enforce laws that don’t exist just because they have that badge pinned on their chest.

      Been there, done that…..21 years….crappy career full of backstabbers, racist, fornicators and every kind of unethical act imaginable that goes on behind closed doors. From the lowly beat officer all the way to the top.

      July 12, 2010 at 10:31 pm

      • Dave

        There’s nothing of subsance in that response or that hasn’t been adressed by me multiple times…..all the more reason for me to ignore it.

        July 12, 2010 at 10:37 pm

  20. Elaine

    Thanks. I worked in a prison for 23 years as a prison guard, so I know the good cop bad cop thing. I’ve also seen the worst of the worst in this society and yet had to deal with them in a fair, firm and consistent manner. I doubt most people have seen what I’ve seen in the prison setting, or could deal with it in a professional way. That’s why when I read some of these stories, I do know where the officer is coming from, and I also know who is playing fair and who is abusing their power. I’m on the officer’s side; the good officer’s side. The officer that detained the photographer, after the other officer let him go, had his ego hurt. That’s all.

    July 12, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    • Geo

      Gee, you worked in a prison for 23 years. HOW does that make you informed on a street cops life ? HINT….IT DOESN’T….you were nothing but a babysitter.

      Yeah you saw stuff that was most people never did nor did they want to. But equate yourself with a street cops life is garbage. Now go get on the mic and yell” chow time”……….

      July 12, 2010 at 10:27 pm

      • Les

        I think Elaine is just saying that she understands power dynamics and the difference between reasonable authority figures, and knee-jerk authoritarians, like yourself.

        August 17, 2010 at 4:04 pm

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  22. Martin

    Not saying the cops actions were correct but if someone was taking photos of me working from 15 feet away, I would be pretty irritated by it. Just because you have the legal right to do something doesn’t mean you should do it.

    July 13, 2010 at 10:47 am

    • James

      You would be irritated, and you may even ask them to stop doing it. But at no time would you have any legal right to force them to stop or to detain them for doing so.
      And any call made to the police would result in them laughing at you and telling you to grow up.

      I routinely take pictures of people much closer than 15 feet, in some cases only a few inches away to get just that right shot.

      July 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm

      • Dave

        I don’t really agree with Martin, although I think it would be impolite (but legal) to obviously be taking lots of photos of Joe Schmo from a short distance minding his own business just because you can (kind of like your mom always said it’s impolite to stare at someone). Although I think I’ve seen more than my share of folks in DC who don’t care about being polite….sad.

        But James….if you or anyone else shoves a camera (or anything else) a couple inches from my face, I would have you arrested for disorderly conduct….or just punch you and break your camera.

        July 13, 2010 at 5:59 pm

      • James

        Dave, you still don’t get it, I can put that camera 1 inch form your face if I felt the need to, as long as I am not touching you or obstruction your movement, then in no way shape or form am I doing anything illegal. You would be unable to have me arrested for disorderly conduct. And the second you punched me and broke my camera I would drop you. I would then call the police, and have you arrested for assault, destruction of property, disorderly conduct and you would be paying me for my camera, pain and suffering, lost wages and you would most likely face jail time.

        The construction crew outside my house is annoying the shit out of me by taking 3 weeks now to repave a 40 foot stretch of road, but I have no right to go out there and punch them because they are annoying me.

        I’m sorry Dave, but you have no right to not be annoyed.

        However as for the reason I am many times a couple of inches away, I do portrait photography, sometimes a couple of inches is needed with a short prime.

        I would never actually do that to someone in public as it would be just plain rude, but if I did, they would have no legal recourse against it other than simply continuing on.

        July 13, 2010 at 6:29 pm

      • Dave

        No…I get Roy, you think you can do whatever you want when you can’t. Your last statement clearly shows you have no idea how broad the definition of disorderly conduct is….and with good reason. Not to mention the comparison you used with the construction couldn’t be more pointless…those guys have a permit to do what they’re doing. As well as omiting that the reason in your other reply for being inches from someone is because the subject is paying you for it! A world of difference. Just move along…….

        July 14, 2010 at 9:21 am

      • Martin

        You seem to have missed my point, I know I would have no legal right to detain them and of course I wouldn’t call the police. I am not supporting the actions of the officers in this article.

        Personally I avoid taking photos of strangers from a short distance without asking first because I know they might find it annoying.

        July 14, 2010 at 11:15 am

      • James

        Martin, you have it exactly, people would find it annoying.
        But there is nothing legally that can be done about it.
        There is no law about being annoying or obnoxious.
        Dave is incorrect about the scope of disorderly conduct.
        It can be applied broadly,but courts have uphelp clearly that a photographer taking pictures of a person in public does not fall under the scope of disorderly conduct.

        The police in this case were wrong, they were incorrectly informed, or correctly informed and chose not to care.

        Either way, they were incorrect in their actions and should be sanctioned.

        While the construction crew may have a permit (no permit needed to take pics in public), they are still annoying me, so by your own statement I should be going out there and punching them and breaking their equipment.

        July 14, 2010 at 3:00 pm

      • Dave

        For someone who claims to have been a judge and a police officer, you sure do miss a lot of details; I never questioned anyone’s rights to take a photo of anyone in public. My statement of punching you was on you shoving your camera in my face….not just on someone taking pictures as I go about my business… it again since you seem to repeatedly miss details.

        July 14, 2010 at 3:16 pm

      • James

        A camera is not a gun, putting a camera in your face and taking pictures of you would give you no right to physically attack me.

        Sorry bud, but what worked for you as a bully in school will not work for you in real life, you cannot simply punch people because they displease you.

        July 14, 2010 at 3:26 pm

      • Dave

        You’re still missing detials. If I don’t know you and you shove something in my face, I (and anyone) would feel threatened and would EASILY be able to articulate why I felt like I felt that you were attacking me. I don’t know you….and all of a sudden you’re shoving something in my face! I’m not punching you because it’s anoying……I’m punching you because I don’t know you and all of a sudden you’re shoving something in my face. I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to feel the need to defend myself. Nope…..never a bully….never got into fights in school or since. Move along………I’m through with you.

        July 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm

      • James

        You keep using that passive aggressive “Move along”, I am afraid that doesn’t work in real life.

        You would have to prove in a court of law that you were unable to identify that what was pointed at you was a camera and that you feared for your safety.

        In order to prove that you would also have to prove that your an absolute moron who jumps when he sees a shadow.

        Anyone with a working brain can see that it is a camera from 15 feet away, there is no threat to safety, and these officers were wrong, plain and simple.

        July 14, 2010 at 3:42 pm

  23. Virualfrog

    Interestingly enough the question, and a lot of false answers, often comes up about what you have to do when you are asked for ID by police. The Supreme Court has answered that for you in 2004. Simply put, they said that you should give your correct name. Your correct name is very public and it will not infringe upon your 5th amendment rights. After you have given your name your 5th amendment rights kick in and you do not have to provide any further ID until you have been arrested.
    See: HIIBEL V. SIXTH JUDICIAL DIST. COURT OF NEV.,HUMBOLDT CTY. (03-5554) 542 U.S. 177 (2004)
    118 Nev. 868, 59 P.2d 1201, affirmed.

    July 13, 2010 at 11:41 am

  24. Virualfrog

    Interestingly enough the question, and a lot of false answers, comes up about what you have to do when you are asked for ID by police. The Supreme Court has answered that for you in 2004. Simply put, they said that you should give your correct name. Your correct name is very public and it will not infringe upon your 5th amendment rights. After you have given your name your 5th amendment rights kick in and you do not have to provide any further ID until you have been arrested.
    See: HIIBEL V. SIXTH JUDICIAL DIST. COURT OF NEV.,HUMBOLDT CTY. (03-5554) 542 U.S. 177 (2004)
    118 Nev. 868, 59 P.2d 1201, affirmed.

    July 13, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    • James

      Virualfrog, careful there, giving facts in a blog, people might mistake you for some crazy guy who deals with facts and not random made up “laws” lol.

      July 14, 2010 at 5:37 pm


    Thank you for fighting for my rights. I look forward to reading updates on your blog.

    Again, thank you.

    July 13, 2010 at 8:55 pm

  26. Pingback: DC photographer detained twice in four months for taking pictures of cops

  27. You have some good looking cops in DC.

    July 14, 2010 at 2:56 pm

  28. Dave

    I’m the one feeling attacked….you’re the one who would have to justify why you’re shoving a camera in someone’s face. Move along…….

    July 14, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    • James

      Again, you would have to prove that you felt attacked, a rational person when confronted with a camera would simply turn the other direction.
      Only an irrational person would feel they are being threatened and lash out at another person.

      If “feeling attacked” was all you needed in order to start hitting someone, then I would have put many MANY, innocent people in jail when some fool felt that due to another persons skin color they were going to attack them and instead attacked first.

      You must be able to articulate why you felt attacked.
      Did the camera have a laser sight on it, was the camera able to touch your person or property in anyway, was the operator behind the camera making threatening or otherwise violent motions towards you?

      You would have to articulate those items.

      I’m sorry Dave, but simply feeling attacked on the street does not give you the legal right to attack someone, legally you must actually be molested first, then, you may defend yourself to the level of which they have attacked you, if they punch you and you shoot them, your going to jail. If they punch you and you punch back, then you were defending yourself.

      July 14, 2010 at 4:58 pm

      • Dave

        Wow…..WAY too many errors to correct. bye

        July 14, 2010 at 5:02 pm

      • James

        Thats Dave’s way of saying “shit he is right and I have no way to respond to that without looking like a bigger ass than I already do”.

        Bye? Well hot damn, see you, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

        July 14, 2010 at 5:12 pm

      • Dave

        You’ve already created your own little world with your own rules…..why not create your own little conversation where that happens as well! And if you think I give a crap whether or not you think I’m an ass…….think again. I have work to do and a life to live…..thankfully (for your sake) without “James” (aka Roy Pearson) shoving a camera in my face.

        July 14, 2010 at 5:19 pm

  29. James

    It is funny you keep calling me Roy Pearson, and yet I am the one who is delusional.

    And was that a thinly veiled threat against my person I saw there?

    July 14, 2010 at 5:36 pm

  30. Paul

    Regardless of what trolls like “former cop” may try to tell you, residents of DC are not required to carry identification with them. Nor are they legally obligated to identify themselves to police officers, even if the police officers are irritated. Only where police have reasonable suspicion that you are engaged in criminal activity are you obligated to identify yourself. And of course that’s a difficult assessment to make (and often consists of officers trying to come up with plausible bases for suspicion after the fact) so it’s often unclear. Here, it’s pretty darn clear. Officers suspected the photographer was engaged in criminal activity because the officers just didn’t know of DC law. Unfortunately, they’ve probably been reading news coverage of certain Maryland prosecutors who’ve been abusing state wiretap law to prosecute those who photograph or record police in public. Those Harford County charges sure look like an outrageous abuse of the law by vindictive and incompetent officers and prosecutors, but at least Maryland is a two-party consent state. The Harford state’s attorney is spectacularly wrong in that case, but assuming vorus’s recounting of the MPD statements is true (and I do assume it is), the MPD officers in this case just have no f-ing clue what they’re talking about. They really do need some remedial education on this, and not as punishment, but because more than many cities, DC is filled with people taking photos. Officers not only need to be comfortable having theirs taken, they to be clear on the law that protects the right of others to take pictures of MPD doing their jobs in public.

    July 15, 2010 at 2:14 am

  31. Pingback: USA Today Editorial on Recording the Police - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine

  32. Pingback: USA Today on Recording the Police | The Agitator

  33. James and Dave, get a room

    You two lovebirds are giving me a headache.

    July 15, 2010 at 2:35 pm

  34. James

    Police offer no protection for celebrities in public, who have their photograph taken by paparaze, but claim joe citizen is prohibited from photographing people in public. Seems a double standard!!

    July 15, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    • James

      Just so you folks know, the James who posted that, is not me.

      July 17, 2010 at 12:04 am

  35. Pingback: – FoBo in the News -FoBoBlo

  36. Pingback: Links – July 16, 2010 « Beautiful Flower Pictures Blog: Floral Photography by Patty Hankins

  37. Gudge

    @ Former Cop: You are incorrect even if you are arrested, one does not have to provide the arresting officer with any form of identification. You have that right under the Constitution the fourth and fifth amendments. They can retrieve your identification once they place you into custody then search you incident to the arrest, but you do not, I repeat, you do not have to voluntarily provide your identification to an officer in DC. As a matter of fact you are not required to carry or produce identification in WDC during police encounters. Vernon K Gudger current Sergeant and twenty-three year member with MPDC, currently assigned to the Second District.

    July 19, 2010 at 4:58 am

  38. Uncle Buck

    Wow…… I read this whole thing out of curiosity.. 99% of this is just stupid bullshit… Yes, you got detained. Yes, they didn’t know the law correctly. 1 don’t be a numbnuts and put yourself in a position like that… Common sense should tell you if nothing more that a small thing like ” hey is it ok if I snap a few pics for my blog?” would have gone a long way… No it’s not required, but common decency and a bit of common sense should kick in… Didn’t you learn that in school or from your mom? You seem intelligent, it looks more like you put yourself there to make a name for yourself off of a cop doing his/her job… AGAIN, yes they didn’t know the correct law, but son you’re stupidity is amazing…… It’s this kind of stupidity that makes a simple situation into publicity…. Enjoy the spotlight. Would be better if you earned it by being a good journalist instead of being stupid.

    July 23, 2010 at 5:06 am

    • Thanks “Buck” for your comment. I was not trying to make a point. I was there just taking a picture. I was not doing anything illegal.

      July 27, 2010 at 12:20 pm

  39. Geopet

    Arguing on blog sites is like participating in the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you’re still retarded.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:59 pm

  40. Davis

    I think these cops acted like cowboys. The fact that they have guns and armor on, outnumbered you, and backed each other up on laws they were clearly wrong on, they were trying to intimidate you.

    I thought intimidation was supposed be used when the situation is extreme to force cooperation.

    Not on a normal law abiding citizen who was just trying to take a picture. Cops like these need to be taken in for a psych evaluation, and sensitivity classes.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:36 pm

  41. lolDave

    Lol dave u suk

    July 27, 2010 at 1:48 am

  42. Pingback: Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse - Reason Magazine

  43. lewis yang

    here’s an even more disturbing police response where they play “fast and loose” with interpretation of law… I think it’s time for judges to come down hard on this expensive abuse of the public purse and process of law, innocent or otherwise. “Ignorance of the law is not a defence”

    August 9, 2010 at 1:50 am

  44. Pingback: Updates from the War on Photography | Truth and Justice For All

  45. Bergman

    Absent any laws that forbid photography (or audio/video recording), doing so is not a crime. In fact it is the exercise of a constitutionally protected right. Such an exercise of rights, where the exercise is not criminal in nature (trespassing to get the snapshot, for example) cannot be forbidden by police (or anyone else).

    There is a federal law on the books, 18USC242, that criminalizes any use of official authority, such as that of a police officer, to violate constitutional, civil or statutory rights. Violation of which is effectively a misdemeanor (about a year in federal prison if convicted); Use of even implied force in the violation makes it the equivalent of a felony (10 years in federal prison if convicted), and if any deaths occur, or sexual abuse, or if the victim is a child, then a conviction brings life in federal prison or the death penalty. 18USC241 is essentially conspiracy to commit the violations in 242, and the penalties start out one step more severe. The group of cops in the above article are definitely guilty of a federal level felony.

    I’m not sure what the legalities are for citizen’s arrest in federal crimes. But it might be fascinating to find out…and wearing a police uniform explicitly does not provide any qualified immunity against the charges that violating 18USC241 and 18USC242 bring.

    September 28, 2010 at 7:58 pm

  46. andrewgould

    What a joke these ill informed police officer are! … Or it would be a joke if it wasn’t such a serious issue. Some time back, I was pursued by some young thugs who just didn’t like me pointing my camera at the beach from the promenade. (Everyone knows that if you point your camera anywhere near a beach that you must be a pedophile, don’t they?) This was in the south of Sydney, Australia, by the way. One of them grabbed me by the shirt, and it was only after I had told him that the police were on the way, that they ran off down the road. Shortly after this, a police car arrived, and two young, armed female officers got out. They informed me — quite wrongly, of course — that I couldn’t take photos with people in them in a public place without asking permission, and furthermore, when I asked for their help, they told me they were not allowed to take me in their car to identify my agressors. Looking back on the situation, I wish I’d taken their names, and followed this up, but I didn’t…

    I’ve been extra cautious ever since, but have been able to let my guard down considerably over here in Chile, where I’m now living. Back in Australia, paranoia is rife. Parents can’t even photograph their own children playing sport, any more. Here in Santiago, the innocence has not yet been lost. Get caught photographing a child playing in the street where I am now, and you’re almost sure the mother will give you a knowing smile of appreciation. And that’s my story…

    October 4, 2010 at 3:31 pm

  47. Pingback: Anonymous

  48. Fred Anon

    All of this is fine and dandy, but the truth ain’t gonna’ set u free. As a result of taking photos around a federal building here in the district, I was stopped by a security guard and asked for ID. Ever since, I’ve been on some kind of TSA watch list and every time I fly, I can no longer print out boarding passes, am harassed and stopped for selective attention.

    March 4, 2011 at 11:15 pm

  49. Pingback: General Photography Links « myrightsusa

  50. Al E.

    Your reference to DC being a “one party consent state” has nothing to do with photography. The law you reference regards telephone conversations. The issue of video taping in public may be another issue since it involves sound, but, it’s not a phone line, so it likely falls in the same category as photography…if your in public, (NO, that doesn’t include places like bathrooms, dressing rooms, etc.) you may “photographed” without consent or knowledge. On the other hand, children are another matter. I don’t photograph children (I make an exception for my grandkids, but, I’m extremely careful with these shots). I don’t care if it’s for “art”. Likewise, if the parents know, consent, or even request…I don’t care…I don’t do it !

    With regard to “video taping” with sound, make sure you do it openly, where no mistake can be made to secrecy. See the following link for a very good article about this:

    July 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm

  51. D.Martin

    Wow… I found this post my accident, and to my surprise or not, the Officer Miriam Wishnick that harassed my wife and I after I flashed my high beams at her for making an unsafe and unlawful turn in front of our vehicle is pictured here.

    We filed an official complaint against her which is still under investigation.

    Video of the full traffic spot is here :

    I heard there was a lawsuit in place… what is the outcome so far?

    March 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    • Hi D. Martin,

      Hope that all is well and thanks for your support. Currently, the case is in court and right now my team is considering the possibility of a settlement.

      April 4, 2012 at 7:34 pm

  52. Pingback: Photographing Police: What Happens When the Police Think Your Phone Holds Evidence of a Crime? | FavStocks

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