Photographing the Police – Carlos Miller Blog

Back in July I wrote about Mary Jean, the activist who fought the Massachusetts State Police when they tried to force her to stop publishing a video that depicted police misconduct.

Unfortunately, this case was not unusual. Law enforcement usually says “if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t worry about being observed/videotaped/wiretapped/searched.”

Until it is law enforcement that finds its behavior under surveillance.

Naturally, this is one of my favorite subjects – where governmental abuse and the First Amendment meet in a street brawl. Well, I found someone who is absolutely obsessed about it (and I mean that in a good way). Carlos Miller is a Miami photographer who was arrested for refusing to stop photographing some Miami cops who, from what I have seen, shouldn’t have had anything to worry about. They weren’t even doing anything wrong – yet.

Miller is definitely the anti-ass-hat. He appears to have been offered some pretty nice plea deals, but he is sticking to his guns and fighting his case to the end. His blog, highly recommended, is Photography is not a crime, It’s a First Amendment right.

5 Responses to Photographing the Police – Carlos Miller Blog

  1. Thanks for the plug, Marc.

    I wish I would have known about the Mary Jean story before I wrote my article on police using wiretapping charges to crack down on videographers.

    But I know I will refer to it in a future article.

  2. Rich says:

    A similar issue that drives me nuts (as a lawyer) every time I come home from an overseas trip–when you get off an international flight in the US, there are signs everywhere saying that it’s illegal to use a cellphone or to take any photographs before you pass through customs and passport control. This is a real pain in the ass when you need to, e.g, call the person who is picking you up at the airport, or just call someone to check in after getting off an 8-hour flight. What possible reason can there be for this “law,” and how does it jibe with the 1st Amendment?

  3. I can sense some justification for this rule. They don’t want someone taking intelligence gathering photos of checkpoints.

    However, the rule is just as stupid as most imposed upon us when we travel. It is “security theater.” The only reason that I have never hijacked a plane, set a bomb anywhere, or taken intel photos or drawn up intel plans of a customs checkpoint is simple — I DON’T WANT TO.

    I have yet to meet a TSA or customs officer that could outwit a well trained dog. If someone wanted to do something untoward like make a phone call to an accomplice while waiting in customs, and they had evil intent, I’m certain that they could make the call with the phone hidden — or just go in the bathroom to make the call.

    On the other hand, the innocent guy who just wants to let his wife know that he landed — he is treated like a criminal by semi-literate flunkies.

    I must have crossed international borders 100 times in my lifetime. I crossed from Greece into Turkey and back again with no hassles. I went into Laos, Tunisia, Singapore, Indonesia… all countries we certainly would not call “free.” I was greeted with professionalism, courtesy, and dignity each time – even when Italian customs was convinced for about 20 minutes that I must be smuggling hashish from Tunisia. I did look the part, so I couldn’t blame them.

    The only times that I have ever been mistreated, hassled, or unnecessarily delayed is when entering the United States.

  4. Dave says:

    “how does it jibe with the 1st Amendment?”

    You’re a lawyer but you don’t know the answer to this?

    It’s simple: you’ve not yet legally entered American territory until you’ve cleared customs. Yes, you’re physically within the United States, but you have not yet entered its sovereign jurisdiction.

    Check the caselaw. You’ll see that jibes with what I’m saying.

  5. Gary Harrison says:

    I can see what you are saying here, but as a non-lawyer, who’s jurisdiction ARE you under and what are their laws?

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