‘I have the right to take pictures’ says teen.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 19, 2012
LINCOLN – 19 year old Caitlin Hoer was at a New Year's Eve party in Blair and arrested by Washington County deputies for “obstructing an officer.” She was not drinking, though some of her friends were. She did not physically interfere with law enforcement and when given a breathalyzer, she tested 0. Her crime: recording police as they apprehended friends for alcohol violations.
Caitlin Hoer was charged with 'obstruction of justice' for taking a photograph. ACLU points to recent DOJ memorandum stating that individuals have the right to photograph law enforcement.
“I know police have hard jobs, but I have the right to take pictures when I'm worried about how my friends are being treated by police. Getting arrested was embarrassing, my reputation in the community is tarnished, and it seemed like it was just retaliation for me standing up for my rights,” says Hoer.
Today ACLU Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller sent a letter to all Nebraska sheriffs and police chiefs informing them of court precedent that, according to the letter, “the First Amendment permits the public to record law enforcement engaged in public duties.”
“Our message to the public is simple: you have every right to photograph police,” says ACLU Legal Director Amy Miller. “We have provided this information to law enforcement to prevent Nebraska tax-payers from paying for the costly litigation that we have seen in other states. Caiti’s case is just one of the many complaints we’ve had from across the state. Nebraskans have been ordered to stop taking pictures or recording in public by police in small towns as well as in Omaha and Lincoln, so we know this is a statewide problem in need of a solution.”
In May, the Department of Justice provided official guidance to law enforcement in response to a complaint brought by the ACLU of Maryland. “Now that we have this guidance from the DOJ, we think it is important that law enforcement take steps to ensure individual rights to photograph police are not violated,” said Miller.
Additionally, ACLU Nebraska provides “Know Your Rights” resources on its website, include information about rights for photographers.
“Our Know Your Rights materials and trainings save tax-payer dollars by giving the public tools to discuss matters with law enforcement before a violation and costly litigation occur,” said Miller.
Individuals can learn about their rights to photograph law enforcement here.