Illinois Legislator Moves To Ban Filming Accident Scenes

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.

Source: CBS

16 thoughts on “Illinois Legislator Moves To Ban Filming Accident Scenes”

  1. raff,

    I recalled it from the early days of MTV. As an odd bit of trivia, one of the Barnes in “Barnes and Barnes”? Is actor Billy Mumy, best known for his roles as the young Will Robinson on “Lost In Space” and as Lennier, the cultural attachĂ© for the alien Minbari on “Babylon 5”.

  2. puzzling,

    Yep. This is a bad idea. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance but it’s kind of hard to be vigilant when you criminalize the actions of those who would watch the watchmen. It makes it real easy to build a tyrannical police state though.

  3. Is is that hard to foresee the long-term implications of precedent-setting legislation like this? Based on the comments, Hans, AY, Otteray, and Tomdarch are failing that test in my view.

    Dominos. Contagion. Whatever you want to call it: if enacted, we are much further along the path to allowing the government to rule when and where the public can monitor the government and its agents.

    I have no doubt Holbrook has crafted one of the thousand cuts.

  4. I don’t know what the issues are for the wording of laws here in my beautiful state, but it seems that this wording is overly detailed and specific. The intent should be to prohibit dangerous driving, which means drivers distracting themselves with extraneous activities, particularly in the vicinity of a road-side accident. Can’t the proposed legislation be worded more broadly?

    As long as the law is clear that it only prohibits these activities by the individual who is operating the motor vehicle WHILE driving, then I think that the Prof is over-reacting slightly. I’m sure this proposed legislation MIGHT be abused by abusive law enforcement, but that’s true for just about any law in our current system.

  5. the passenger should be able to film anything they want. the driver has no business paying attention to anything but the road ahead. i think the number of accidents happening while looking at electronic navigators are under reported. driving is not a video game, you can’t do it while looking at a screen.

  6. I am a skeptic of this bill that purports to be for insuring public safety. I think it is designed to protect police officers from the scrutiny of the public. Isn’t this a constitutional issue? If used against the press trying to film an accident or an arrest, would this violate freedom of the Press? I see nothing good in passing a law that can only be used to stifle the publics need for the facts. How is this law going to stop rubberneckers on the highway??? They can still slow down and look, but just can’t film! This bill is a wolf in sheeps clothing.

  7. Sometimes I think YouTube is one of the best things that ever happened to this country.

  8. References are to the “driver” and/or “operator” of said motor vehicle. That seems to leave a window for a passenger or bystander to record. I have no problem with prohibiting the driver to make a video while the vehicle is in motion.

    As a pilot, the first rule I learned during my very first flying lesson (cough, cough) years ago was: If there is an emergency, the first rule is to, “Fly the plane.” In other words, do not let distractions keep you from the primary purpose of keeping the shiny side up and the dirty side down with the nose pointed at the horizon.

    If this proposed law is just for enforcing safety, it may not be a problem. However, it may open the door for enforcement abuse, and with that I have a real problem. We already have laws on the books in every jurisdiction regarding safety and not driving recklessly. Those laws would seem to suffice.

  9. I think Public Safety is the core of this bills intent… They have laws on the books such as hindering traffic…etc…use them instead of this shit….. Unless it is a product of the insurance coalition… They don’t like to pay claims do they?

  10. It seems clear from the summary that Mr Holbrooke wants to ban filming of accident scenes *while driving*. I should think that to be a worthy goal.

  11. What’s next, arresting people for observing police activities or an accident scene? Will we be required to shield our eyes or turn our backs whenever the police are assaulting or shooting someone?

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