Videographer Arrested After Recording An Accident And Not Handing The Camera Over To The Police

Jan 10, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

Videographer Arrested After Recording An Accident And Not Handing The Camera Over To The Police

Jan 10, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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Usually we hear stories about photographers getting harassed or arrested for taking pictures, but this one is about a photographer that got arrested for not letting the police see them. Photographer in Lacey Township, Philadelphia was arrested and detained for a few hours after recording an accident for 45 minutes and not handing over his camera to the police.

The photographer, Flinchbaugh, who considers himself an independent member of the media (and is a contributor to a local news site), was one of the first to arrive at the scene which got him access. But as he was going to leave, he was confronted by a detective who demanded Flinchbaugh to hand over his camera so the video could be reviewed for potential evidence. When Flinchbaugh refused he was handcuffed and arrested for obstructing administration of law, despite the fact that he was willing to provide a copy of the video to the police.

Flinchbaugh (and his camera) were released a few hours later, and in a phone interview with NBC Philadelphia local Sheriff said they will probably dismissing the charges. Sheriff also said that they would have never looked at the video without a warrant.

Lastly, the sheriff told NBC that this issue will be included in future training for law enforcement members. Time will tell if this is helping photographers in the county.

[nbcphiladelphia via reddit]

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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26 responses to “Videographer Arrested After Recording An Accident And Not Handing The Camera Over To The Police”

  1. Mike Carson Avatar
    Mike Carson

    Why is it a common theme that the people entrusted with upholding the law are given much more leeway when they break it?

    1. mike Avatar
      mike

      Because if you protest, they could kill you.

      1. John Collins Avatar
        John Collins

        That’s why preemptive killing of cops is happening. What goes around, comes around.

  2. Real Fletch Avatar
    Real Fletch

    This article failed to state UNEQUIVOCALLY what are the photographers right in this issue.
    We can infer that the officer was wrong. But the author missed an opportunity to educate us on what are our rights and when would the officer be able to demand our cameras (never?).
    I’m a photographer not a lawyer Jim!

  3. atifchowhan Avatar
    atifchowhan

    Officer brobably enforcing laws to implement proper chain of custody of an evidence and to prove digital forensics for the evidence. For this the recording equipment can also be considered as part of evidence.

    1. Michael Harpe Avatar
      Michael Harpe

      How is that photographer part of the chain of evidence??

      1. seth1066 Avatar
        seth1066

        Photographer took original un-edited video which is in his possession. Handing that video to the requesting officer and the police document where how and when they gained possession of the video evidence from the photographer, shows two links in the chain of evidence.

        The photographer’s offer of a copy of the video taints the evidence because, is it complete, has it been edited, etc., etc. Police taking possession of the video evidence then and there negates any and all questions.

        1. tyger13 Avatar
          tyger13

          If the photographer provides the video in a timely manner and signs an affidavit that he had provided a complete and unedited video then there is no question and no need to confiscate the equipment.

  4. M Rick Richards Avatar
    M Rick Richards

    Why was it such a big deal to show the cops the video. It sounds like we only got his side of the story.

    1. Jesse Russell Avatar
      Jesse Russell

      There is a big difference between a request to see a video and a demand to hand over your device.

    2. David Hennes Avatar
      David Hennes

      The deal is you do have a right to refuse

    3. M Rick Richards Avatar
      M Rick Richards

      Like I said, I think we only got one side of the story, and not even all of that.

    4. Victoria Marchant Avatar
      Victoria Marchant

      The article states that the photographer offered to provide the police with a copy of the footage. I can certainly understand not wanting to hand over the camera itself – there may be other content on there that the police have no right or need to view, plus the device itself is presumably costly and may be required for work, given that he’s affiliated with local news. This arrest seems incredibly heavy handed and beyond the scope of the law as I understand it.

    5. John Collins Avatar
      John Collins

      Achtung! You vill show me your papers!

  5. Will Chamberland Avatar
    Will Chamberland

    See Pig bully. end of story

  6. Charles O. Slavens Avatar
    Charles O. Slavens

    Similar to what happened in NYC on 9/11, where the cops used that attack as an opportunity to act like unleashed rabid dogs towards photogs. Lottsa cops are ex-high school bullies who now have a badge a gun and a bullet-proof vest.

  7. breezanemom Avatar
    breezanemom

    What’s wrong with letting the police see the video? Sorry, all, but I think the photographer was wrong in this case. While legally he may have the right to say no, MORALLY he should have said yes.

    Offering to give them a copy of the video is not enough. Who knows what he would cut out or otherwise edit. The video is potential evidence of what happened between the time the photographer started shooting and the time help arrived. That evidence is tainted the minute it leaves the scene.

    BTW – why didn’t the photographer try to HELP at the accident scene instead of just FILMING it? He could have made a difference in people’s lives. To me, he is just another idiot reporter who only cares about one thing – himself.

    1. Robert Farmer Avatar
      Robert Farmer

      Lacking proper medical training. The videographer avoided potential liability for intervening; unless there is a Good Samaritan law in that jurisdiction. The story also does not specify how many others were on the scene or more qualified.

      As for “turning over evidence without a warrant”. How did his unwillingness become exigent circumstances?

      How many times has equipment malfunctioned in police custody? Perhaps, did anyone stop to think, he was more concerned with providing timely newsworthy content than having it sit on an evidence room shelf! Old news is old news.

    2. Tiberiu Avatar
      Tiberiu

      Well, cops are supposed to enforced the law, not moral laws! For this we have the Bible! He did not want to refuse the evidence, so why have his property confiscated without a warrant?

    3. mike Avatar
      mike

      Try reading the article. The photographer did offer to give them the raw video. But the cop wanted their actual camera.

      This is just a way to apply a “chilling effect” to people photographing officers in the line of duty. I certainly wouldn’t want an expensive camera stolen by a bully with a gun.

  8. Yandrosxx Avatar
    Yandrosxx

    As a lawyer. I have zero problem with what the cop did. I wouldn’t have arrested the photographer but preserving evidence in its original unedited format is necessary. The fact the photog was arrested suggests the photog wasn’t doing a little more than not cooperating like being an *ss. Not that that’s grounds to be arrested but that’ll get a cop to make a point.

    1. martin Avatar
      martin

      WRONG, the photographer is in fact a witness to the crime/incident and is entitled to legal representation – You’re suggesting that the police can arrest a witness to a crime.

      The proper thing for the photographer to do is to inform the police that they can make a proper request with a warrant/subpoena to the photographer’s legal representation. Period.

      Thankfully I don’t live in the US where it seems personal liberty has gone out the window…

      1. David Lewis Avatar
        David Lewis

        Yandrosxx, I have a hard time believing you are a lawyer.
        I am not a lawyer, but I know enough to see that you have no idea what you are talking about.
        Flinchbaugh arrived on the scene after first responders (meaning any evidence he could have collected could also be collected by the police). According to ACLU (look it up on their site) taking pictures and videos are protected.
        Lets also analyze the actions of the detective. According to an attorney from the US attorneys office (whom I would like to leave unnamed) to seize a person or property without PC or warrant is in violation of constitutional rights. The detective seized Flinchbaugh (no PC, no warrant). It is undeniable that Flinchbaugh was seized because he was arrested. The detective seized the camera (no PC, no warrant).
        What this looks like ̶ The detective violated the constitutional rights of a citizen twice because he didn’t want somebody having a video.
        I hope this ends the detectives career. To put it lightly, this was unprofessional and presents an image that the police are above the law.

  9. mike Avatar
    mike

    The officer was probably mad that he was not going to get a shiney new camera to steal from the evidence locker.

  10. David Hennes Avatar
    David Hennes

    You may want to check out http://photographyisnotacrime.com and see all the crap

  11. Sonole Avatar
    Sonole

    I was wondering: if a video is seized possibly illegally, wouldn’t it be useless in court as evidence (for the accident)? I mean, in case seizing is declared illegal by a court? I’m not a lawyer but have seen some movies!