The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reinstated a claim earlier this month that affirms the right of citizens to photograph law enforcement and their activities. In an August 14 ruling, the court said, “The First Amendment protects the right to photograph and record matters of public interest. This includes the right to record law enforcement officers engaged in the exercise of their official duties in public places.”
The ruling comes after separate incidents in 2012 involving border policy activists having their photos of activities occurring at the US-Mexico border taken and destroyed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. When the activists first sued, the district court dismissed the claim saying that the policies of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection required them to uphold using “the least restrictive means of serving the compelling interest of protecting the United States’ territorial sovereignty.”
The district court still granted the activists leave to file an amended complaint, but then refused to consider it in 2015. The appeals court established that dismissing the amended complaint was an error. The district court will now receive the case again, with orders from the appeals court to follow procedure and closely examine the details of where they were photographing to see if First Amendment rights apply to that location.
Read the full appeals court ruling.