The other night, Pennsylvania-based photographer Jason Macchioni decided to visit a local overpass in Elizabethtown to take some photos for a time-lapse video he’s been putting together. As he was working, capturing images of the traffic rushing below him, he was stopped and beleaguered by Northwest Regional Police Officers Charles Tobias and Harry Cleland. Luckily for us, and Macchioni himself, he was able to capture footage, shown above, of nearly the entire confrontation
Upon review of the incident, it doesn’t take much to realize who was ultimately at fault. Aside from the fact that Tobias’s demand of asking for Macchioni’s identification suggests that he had reasonable suspicion to believe that Macchioni was committing a crime, something that is obviously wasn’t the case, allegations of “wiretapping” began to be thrown around in lieu of Macchioni’s documentation of the situation. Just to clear some things up pertaining to the wiretap laws in Pennsylvania, it is two-party-consent law that makes it a crime to intercept or record a conversation unless all parties of the conversation give consent. However, in Macchioni’s case, the law doesn’t cover conversations when the speakers do not have an “expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation.” Because of this, a conversation in a public place can be recorded without consent. In addition to that, Macchioni was a player in the party, as well. He couldn’t have been charged with wiretapping. Perhaps Macchioni’s situation was a confrontation where police officers beat their chests and abused their power.
Since his irritating confrontation with Tobias and Cleland, Macchioni has enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Earlier this month, we covered an article concerning the rights of a photographer, established by the ACLU, which can be viewed here. It is a great tool for all of you visual creatives out there – you never know when you might get stopped by the cops for doing nothing wrong.