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EFF to court: The First Amendment protects the right to record first responders

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The First Amendment protects the right of members of the public to record first responders addressing medical emergencies, EFF argued in an amicus brief filed in the federal trial court for the Northern District of Texas. The case, Adelman v. DART, concerns the arrest of a Dallas freelance press photographer for criminal trespass after he took photos of a man receiving emergency treatment in a public area.

EFF’s amicus brief argues that people frequently use electronic devices to record and share photos and videos. This often includes newsworthy recordings of on-duty police officers and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel interacting with members of the public. These recordings have informed the public’s understanding of emergencies and first responder misconduct.

EFF’s brief was joined by a broad coalition of media organizations: the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the National Press Photographers Association, the PEN American Center, the Radio and Television Digital News Association, Reporters Without Borders, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Texas Association of Broadcasters, and the Texas Press Association.

Our local counsel are Thomas Leatherbury and Marc Fuller of Vinson & Elkins L.L.P.

EFF’s new brief builds on our amicus brief filed last year before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Fields v. Philadelphia. There, we successfully argued that the First Amendment protects the right to use electronic devices to record on-duty police officers.

Adelman, a freelance journalist, has provided photographs to media outlets for nearly 30 years. He heard a call for paramedics to respond to a K2 overdose victim at a Dallas Area Rapid Transit (“DART”) station. When he arrived, he believed the incident might be of public interest and began photographing the scene. A DART police officer demanded that Adelman stop taking photos. Despite Adelman’s assertion that he was well within his constitutional rights, the DART officer, with approval from her supervisor, arrested Adelman for criminal trespass.

Adelman sued the officer and DART. EFF’s amicus brief supports his motion for summary judgment.

This story originally appeared on the EFF’s blog.

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