Miami journalist Carlos Miller has been arrested twice for photographing the police. He beat the rap both times: In 2010 he was acquitted of resisting arrest without violence, and his 2008 conviction for resisting arrest was overturned on appeal in 2009. Miller runs the website Photography Is Not a Crime, where he defends First Amendment protections for anyone with a camera. We asked Miller to share three tips for dealing with cops who don’t like having their activities recorded.
1 Get it on video. Police think twice when dealing with video, as opposed to a still camera. If your camera has video capabilities, start rolling. If you have a smart phone, use a live stream service like Qik that stores the video online immediately. Inform the officer that the video is live streaming and people are already watching it online.
2 Assert your rights. Police also think twice when dealing with people who know their rights. Inform the officers that they need a subpoena before confiscating your camera, even if they demand it “as evidence.” Police can confiscate your camera only if it was used in the commission of a crime, such as child pornography.
3 Just leave. Ask the officers if you are being detained or are free to leave. If they are detaining you, they must have reasonable suspicion you are committing a crime. Taking pictures or video in public is not reasonable suspicion. If they are not detaining you, then you are free to leave—with your camera.