All John Fearing wanted was test out his new camera when he decided to photograph a traffic accident a couple of blocks from his Indiana home last July.
It ended up getting him arrested.
Although the above video clearly shows he was not breaking the law, the judge denied his motion to dismiss the case.
So now he is scheduled to go to trial October 14 on a misdemeanor charge of “refusing to leave emergency incident area.”
Fearing, who spent 15 years as executive director of the Arizona Newspaper Association, knows his rights when it comes to documenting public officials on duty.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear anybody else knows the law in Richmond, Indiana, where he moved to late last year.
Even his own lawyer informed him that this is not a First Amendment issue.
“I don’t know any other lawyer in town,” he said in an interview with Photography is Not a Crime Tuesday night.
Fearing’s troubles started on July 2 when he heard the collision down the street from his home. He grabbed his new Canon S95, hopped on his bicycle and pedaled down to see the action.
It was pretty much over by that time; a four-car collision in which one person had already been transported to the hospital.
The still photos Fearing snapped show citizens and tow truck operators milling about the scene. Another video he added to the same set show a man pushing a baby stroller through the scene.
They also show that police never bothered to put up yellow crime tape to designate it an emergency area, which is necessarily under the charge he is facing.
One photo also shows Richmond police officer Aaron Stevens ordering him away from the area.
“I asked him how far he wanted me to move back and I moved back,” he said.
But even though he obliged to move down the street, the officer continued to harass him.
That was when Fearing switched to video mode on his new camera.
The video shows Stevens asking for his name, then demanding his identification even after Fearing told him his first and last name.
Fearing was pulling out his identification when the officer began threatening him about the camera by saying, “If you take a picture of me ….”
It wasn’t long before Stevens arrested him on a charge of interfering and obstructing traffic, but the prosecutor switched it to the refusing to leave emergency incident area charge, which is stated below.
Nonfirefighter’s refusal to leave emergency incident area
Sec. 5. A person who is not a firefighter who knowingly or
intentionally refuses to leave an emergency incident area
immediately after being requested to do so by a firefighter or law
enforcement officer commits a Class A misdemeanor.
Firefighter’s refusal to leave emergency incident area
Sec. 6. A firefighter who:
(1) has not been dispatched to an emergency incident area;
(2) enters an emergency incident area; and
(3) refuses to leave an emergency incident area immediately after being requested to do so by a dispatched firefighter or law enforcement officer; commits a Class C infraction.
The emergency incident area is defined below:
“Emergency incident area” defined
Sec. 2. As used in this chapter, “emergency incident area” means the area surrounding a structure, vehicle, property, or area that is:
(1) defined by police or firefighters with flags, barricades, barrier tape, or other markers; or
(2) one hundred and fifty (150) feet in all directions from the perimeter of the emergency incident; whichever is greater.
Besides, the “emergency” was already over by the time Fearing pedaled up.
Below is another video of Fearing getting harassed for photography at a local courthouse.