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Do photographers have protection...

My question is whether photojournalists are protected from legal action if they witness and photography a crime. Let’s say if I were to do a story on drug dealers. Could my photographs incriminate me in anyway? Or force me to incriminate my subjects?

by Michel Hulsey at 2008-07-10 01:41:28 UTC (ed. Jul 10 2008 ) New York , United States | Bookmark | | Report spam→

I could be wrong, but I don’t think that photographing a crime is a crime itself, unless you are photographing yourself commiting a crime.

I recently raised a similar question to a photo editor. I was present during a misdemeanor, and the police wanted to look through my pictures to see if I captured the culprit. The answer I got was to give the police my name and contact information, tell them I am a freelance photojournalist working on an assignment. If they wanted to have my pictures subpoenaed, after my attorney reviewed the paperwork, I would be happy to turn over copies of relevant photographs if there were any. If the crime were a murder or rape, etc., I would have been perfectly in my rights to help the police as I could, getting a subpoena after the fact to protect me.

I could be speaking out of turn, but it would seem that your drug story, although a little more complicated, can follow along the same path. You are pretty protected as a working photojournalist. If the police want your pictures, they have to subpoena them. Depending on the crime you witnessed/photographed, you can use your conscience on how proactive you want to be.

Just my 2¢. I’m sure others will have a more exacting answer.

by Brian C Frank | 10 Jul 2008 02:07 (ed. Jul 10 2008) | Des Moines, ia, United States | | Report spam→
States have slightly different shield laws for journalists:

http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=70

Click on the state by state guide on the left in the link.

It’s not usually a matter of your being incriminated. You still have all the rights of a private citizen; which is to say, talking to a drug dealer won’t usually get you charged with a crime unless you are negotiating a sale. But the shield laws come in if you are asked to surrender your materials — photos, notes, recordings, etc.

by [former member] | 10 Jul 2008 03:07 | New York, United States | | Report spam→

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Participants

Michel Hulsey, Photographer Michel Hulsey
Photographer
New York , United States
Brian C Frank, Photographer Brian C Frank
Photographer
Des Moines, Iowa , United States


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