A San Francisco federal judge dismissed a civil-rights lawsuit filed by a newspaper photographer who accused officers of illegally barring him from taking pictures at a freeway crash scene and handcuffing him when he persisted, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Oakland Tribune photographer Ray Chavez said police officers interfered with his right as a member of the press to cover news, specifically a car crash and the emergency response time. He was “arrested and handcuffed without justification solely due to the exercise of First Amendment rights,” said his suit in U.S. District Court.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said the news media have no First Amendment right to be at an accident or crime scene if the general public is excluded. Breyer said Chavez “does not offer any evidence that suggests that the general public had a right to exit their vehicles on the freeway and stand in the freeway to take photographs. Moreover, common sense dictates that members of the general public are not allowed to exit their cars in the middle of the freeway to view an accident scene.” Chavez attorney Terry Gross intends to file suit in state court, noting that Breyer did not address the issue of whether police violated a state law that allows the media access to “a menace to the public health or safety,” including accidents and disasters.