NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · FLORIDA · Newsgathering · April 24, 2007
Reporter arrested for photographing officers in public
April 24, 2007 · A freelance photographer and journalist who was arrested while taking photos on a public street in Miami pleaded not guilty to multiple charges in a court hearing this month.
Carlos Miller was originally charged with disobeying officers, obstruction of justice, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence for a February incident.
Some of the charges of disobeying officers have been dropped, and Miller also faces a charge of obstructing traffic that will be decided in traffic court.
Miller’s case is scheduled to go to trial May 7 in Miami.
The officers who arrested Miller claim that he was standing in the middle of a busy street, obstructing traffic while he photographed their conversation with another individual, according to an arrest report. Miller said that he was actually standing in a construction zone when the police asked him to stop taking photographs.
The issue of where Miller was standing is the center of the argument over whether or not his arrest violated the First Amendment. Miller argues that he should not have been arrested for using his camera in a public area, such as the construction zone, where he was not obstructing traffic.
Miller first encountered the police officers when he was reporting on a story for a local news Web site, www.category305.com, regarding the renovation of the street where he was later arrested. He photographed the officers as they were interrogating another man on the street.
He said in a written statement that he was not resisting arrest but trying to protect the camera equipment he was carrying from damage while the police “slammed [his] head into the pavement.” Miller said he had to seek medical treatment for injuries to his head and body after being released from jail the following morning.
The South Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has been helping Miller with his case. The chapter has given Miller a $1,000 grant from its legal defense fund to help with his legal fees.
In a letter to the Miami police chief in March, SPJ requested that the arrest be reviewed at the “highest levels of the police department and the city.”
The letter also protested the arrest, saying that Miller “crossed no police lines,” “endangered no one,” and was “simply doing his job as a journalist.”
(Florida v. Miller, Media Counsel: Joseph Shook, Miami) — LM