So what exactly is "unlawful photography" anyway?

Carlos Miller

So what exactly is "unlawful photography" anyway?

In a clear violation of his First Amendment rights, Tennessee deputy Starling McCloud arrested Scott Conover last week for photographing him with an IPhone during a traffic stop on a public road.

McCloud went as far as using two sets of handcuffs to arrest Conover, according to a witness statement from another police officer.

McCloud ordered Conover to delete the photo, but Conover rightly refused, according to the arrest report,

So McCloud arrested Conover and charged him “unlawful photography”, which is a violation under the Tennessee Code.

However, the law specifically states that the victim would either have to be a minor or have a “reasonable expectation of privacy”.

McCloud, an adult who was on-duty and standing on the side of a public road, did not have any reasonable expectations of privacy.

This is the way the law reads:

39-13-605. Unlawful photographing in violation of privacy. —
(a) It is an offense for a person to knowingly photograph, or cause to be photographed an individual, when the individual is in a place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, without the prior effective consent of the individual, or in the case of a minor, without the prior effective consent of the minor’s parent or guardian, if the photograph:
Would offend or embarrass an ordinary person if such person appeared in the photograph; and
Was taken for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of the defendant.(b) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, “photograph” means any photograph or photographic reproduction, still or moving, or any videotape or live television transmission of any individual so that the individual is readily identifiable.
(c) All photographs taken in violation of this section shall be confiscated and, after their use as evidence, destroyed.
A violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor.
If the defendant disseminates or permits the dissemination of the photograph to any other person, a violation of this section is a Class E felony.

McCloud also charged Conover for “pointing a laser at a law enforcement officer” as well as “disorderly conduct”.

First of all, the IPhone does not emit a laser and second of all, anybody familiar with police tactics knows that disorderly conduct is a charge police use when they can’t think of an actual crime committed.

And if you read the arrest report and the witness statement linked above – as well as a witness statement from a third officer – you can see that the basis of the arrest was solely because Conover refused to delete the photo he took of McCloud.

And it is illegal for a law enforcement officer to order a civilian to delete a photo without a court order.


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