Ever spend more than five minutes in a single location taking photos in an attempt to capture that perfect image?
That can get you arrested in Washington D.C.
The city that houses the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence has a list of 159 minor offenses that can land you in jail.
The offenses range from construction code violations to fishing violations.
But the one that really seems to violate the First Amendment is listed under the subject “Photographer Violations,” which states the following.
Photographer – More than 5 minutes at location
It doesn’t go into detail, which means police can abuse this “violation” at their discretion.
Many photographers have taken photos in our nation’s capital without getting harrassed or arrested, but maybe that’s because police were not aware of this violation in the books.
But knowing how cops have searched in vain for laws to crackdown on photographers, don’t be surprised if they start using this one now that they have become aware of it.
UPDATE: The Washington Post posted an update at 2:58 p.m., exactly 13 minutes after I posted this story, stating that the law was aimed at photographers who solicit tourists.
These rules, which date to before District home rule, appear to be aimed at a largely bygone corps of street photographers who mainly solicit tourists. There are a number of rules governing their conduct, including this: “While engaged in taking photographs, no person licensed under §521 or §522 of this chapter shall impede traffic as defined in the District of Columbia Traffic Acts; nor shall any photographer remain longer than five (5) minutes at any one (1) location on the streets, sidewalks, or other public spaces.” Hence the “More than 5 minutes at location” offense.
Please send stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org