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Texas Man Handcuffed for Photographing Police Station

A Texas man was handcuffed and detained for taking pictures of a police department from a public sidewalk.

The man, who goes by The Battousai on Youtube said he was doing a First Amendment test to see how the Round Rock Police Department would respond to his Constitutionally protected activity of taking pictures from a public sidewalk.

They ended up interpreting it as “suspicious activity.”

But then again, we’re living in an age where practically all Constitutionally protected activity is considered suspicious activity.

In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has even classified “alternative media,” a category that PINAC could easily fall under, as a form of “domestic extremism,” describing alternative media in a report as “a forum for interpretations of events and issues that differ radically from those presented in mass media products and outlets.”

We know the mainstream media will usually accept whatever information the government spoon feeds them, which is something we don’t do here, so consider us radicals.

Or better yet, take a step back and observe who is truly guilty of domestic extremism.

Is it the man taking photos in broad daylight of a police department who then refused to identify himself because he was not under any legal obligation to do so, considering the cops had no reasonable suspicion that he was committing a crime?

Or is it the cops who handcuffed him and insinuated that he was planning on blowing up the police department simply because he was taking photos of it?

“I need to identify you in case something does happen, the building blows up or whatever  the case may be,” an officer Hernandez informed him before handcuffing him.

Eventually, several more cops came out, including Sergeant Mike Osborn, who accused the man of being disrespectful by invoking his Constitutional rights.

When I walk up to you and start talking to you and start trying to ask you a simple question and create some type of dialogue so we can have some type of friendly conversation.

And you want to have attitude and start talking about Constitutional rights?

But friendly conversations do not consist of walking up to complete strangers and demanding their identifications. Try that in a coffee shop or bar and see how that well that works out for you.

Once the man was forced to identify himself, he asked the cops for their names and badge numbers, which they are usually required to provide under departmental policy.

But Osborn told him they did not have to do identify themselves because he was their supervisor and was providing the man with his business card.

“I said I gave you my identification and they don’t have to do that,” Osborn said.

We don’t know what policies the Round Rock Police Department has in place regarding officers being required to identify themselves when asked, but we do know what laws Texas has in place regarding citizens being required to identify themselves.

PINAC reader ExCop-LawStudent breaks it down for us in a blog post:

OK, it is fairly simple.  If you are under arrest refuse to provide your name, date of birth, or residence address, you commit a Class C misdemeanor unless you have warrants outstanding, when it is a Class B misdemeanor.  If you are either under arrest or lawfully detained, it is an offense to provide a false name, date of birth or address.  The later is a Class B or A misdemeanor, dependent on whether you have outstanding warrants.

What is not an offense is refusing to provide your name, date of birth, or residence address when you are lawfully detained. See Dutton v. Hayes-Pupko, No. 03-06-00438-CV, 2008 Tex. App. LEXIS 6030, 2008 WL 3166324 (Tex. App.–Austin 2008, no pet.).  The court held that Deputy Derrick Dutton had arrested Sheryl Hayes-Pupko without probable cause since the law did not require her to identify herself while she was only being detained..  Dutton’s mistake of law did not provide a defense for the false arrest claim.

Unfortunately, this is not unusual for Texas.  Police officers in this state have an idea that they have the right to identify anyone at anytime for any or no reason.  The courts have repeatedly slapped them down on this.

  • “The application of Tex. Penal Code Ann., Tit. 8, § 38.02 (1974), to detain appellant and require him to identify himself violated the Fourth Amendment because the officers lacked any reasonable suspicion to believe appellant was engaged or had engaged in criminal conduct.  Accordingly, appellant may not be punished for refusing to identify himself, and the conviction is Reversed.”  Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47 (1979).

The incident is broken down in two videos, the first one above, the second one below.

Call the Round Rock Police Department at 512-218-5500.

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About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.