First Amendment Prevails in Minnesota Video Arrest

A Minnesota man who was arrested in 2012 for videotaping an EMS crew treating a patient, has been acquitted by a Ramsey County jury.

Andrew Henderson was arrested on October 30, 2012 after he began filming an Allina Health Emergency Medical Services ambulance crew outside his apartment building in Little Canada, Minnesota. The crew was attending to an intoxicated patient at the time, and asked Henderson to stop filming because “very personal private information” was being discussed.

Henderson refused citing his First Amendment right to film in public.  A sheriff’s deputy took Henderson’s camera and arrested him for disorderly conduct and interfering with an ambulance crew.

Today, the six-person jury took less than ninety minutes of deliberations to find Henderson not guilty. The verdict followed a two-day trial that saw Henderson represented by the ACLU of Minnesota.

No word on whether Henderson will be pursing a civil rights claim against the sheriff’s office.  If not, they should consider themselves lucky.

For those out there unfamiliar with the law, this is not even a close case. Members of the public have a First Amendment right to film public officials doing their jobs in public places. It extends to all members of the public, not just the traditional media. This right has been affirmed, re-affirmed, and re-affirmed again.

Congratulations to Mr. Henderson and the ACLU on their victory. Hopefully it will serve as another learning experience for police officers and emergency personnel alike.

Remember, we can establish safety zones, work zones, and crime scene zones – but beyond that ignore the cameras and focus on your job.

More on the verdict.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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