Photographer Loses Crime Scene Access Fight

Photographers might find it more difficult to snap pics in the middle of a bloody crime scene after a federal judge dismissed a first amendment case in Oakland, California. 

Oakland Tribune photographer Ray Chavez had filed suit in U.S. District Court claiming his First Amendment rights were violated when police handcuffed him when he refused to stop taking pictures of an automobile crash on Interstate 880 in 2007.

Police told Chavez he was being cited for impeding traffic and refusing to obey a lawful order. The dismissal could be interpreted to mean that journalists don't have the right to enter a crash site or crime scene if the general public is being kept out.

Judge Charles Breyer's ruling states Chavez didn't "...offer any evidence that suggests that the general public had a right to exit their vehicles on the freeway and stand in the freeway to take photographs.

Chavez, a nationally recognized photographer with 15 years at the Tribune, says he's disappointed with the decision.

"The police are going to keep violating our First Amendment, the right to gather information and cover newsworthy spot news," Chavez told the Tribune. "It's unfair, not only for me, but for all journalists, because it can happen to them, too."

Chavez attorney, Terry Gross, said the judge misinterpreted the first amendment law.

"We believe that clearly the judge's decision was wrong," Gross said before pledging to appeal the decision.

What do you think? Should photographers have unfettered access to crime scenes?

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