We have been following the widening practice of police arresting citizens for filming them in public. Both courts and commentators have denounced the practice. These concerns explain some unease over a measure proposed by Illinois State Rep. Tom Holbrooke (D-Belleville) who wants to ban some filming in public — of any accident scenes. There is an obvious concern that such laws could be used to push for expanded criminalization and would give officials broad discretion in arresting some citizens seen with cameras.
In fairness to Holbrook, he is not trying to criminalize the filming of officers in public. He is only seeking penalties for the use a wireless device within 500 feet of an accident, except for specified purposes such as insurance records.
However, the law is part of a trend toward criminalization of public photography by citizens. The law would prevent citizens for photographing any scene where they see abuse if it was also the scene of an accident — a broad category of cases.
Here is the summary of the bill:
Amends the Illinois Vehicle Code. Provides that no person may use a wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle within 500 feet of an emergency scene except for specified purposes. Adds digital photographs and video to the definition of “electronic message” in provisions prohibiting the use of electronic communication devices while operating a motor vehicle. Effective immediately.
Click here for the full bill.
The law has two helpful exceptions:
(5) a driver using an electronic communication device while parked on the shoulder of a roadway; or
(6) a driver using an electronic communication device when the vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the driver has the motor vehicle transmission in neutral or park.
Holbrook clearly wants to address the dangers of people rubbernecking at accidents — a worth objective. However, the concern is how the law could be used as part of this general trend toward cracking down on videotaping of officers.