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Connecticut woman thinks public photography is a crime

June 9, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
News flash: it is legal to take photographs in public.

Unfortunately, there seem to be people out there who think the opposite.

Last month, a young man was flying a remote control drone airplane on a beach in Connecticut when a 23-year-old woman took offense. A woman identified in media accounts as Andrea Mears allegedly thought the man was trying to take pictures of women in bikinis on the beach. She called the police, physically attacked the young man and called him a pervert. Unluckily for her, the man had an iPhone in hand and recorded the entire attack, which was used as evidence to file third degree assault and disturbing the peace charges against her.

The man has uploaded the video online. It can be seen at—1402206030 The British tabloid The Daily Mail, along with other outlets, reported the incident. The Daily Mail story can be found at A blog called photography is not a also reported on the incident. The same site also reported on a 2011 incident in Wahpeton where a kid who videotaped a police officer talking to someone in public was allegedly taken to the police station and interrogated for an hour before being released without charges being filed.

There are some lessons I would take away from incidents like these. There is no expectation of privacy in public. Strangers, including professional photographers, newspaper reporters, tourists and hobbyists are usually perfectly within their legal rights to take pictures of people and their children without asking permission if they are in a public location. They are allowed to take pictures of police in a public location, provided they are not hindering an investigation or an arrest.

If you don't exercise your rights you will lose them. Too many people, like Mears, are inclined to believe that it is no longer legal to take pictures in public if other people object. It is also illegal to physically attack someone in public, even if he is doing something genuinely offensive. Mears has probably learned her lesson by now.


Article Comments



Jun-14-14 9:46 PM

A slight correction -- the People of Walmart pictures may not be legal if they are taken inside the store, since Walmart is private property. If they are taken of people coming out of the store, they probably are. I think there could be some legal question about whether Walmart could be considered a public space. The site is incredibly mean and the photos very unflattering, but I haven't heard of any lawsuits by the people featured in them.


Jun-14-14 7:46 PM

I have my doubts that any photographer will be taking pictures of me in a public place for the heck of it, but it would also be his right to take a picture of me walking away or shaking my fist at his camera. It's quite legal for people to take all those unflattering People of Wal-Mart pictures and post them on the Internet, too.


Jun-13-14 5:30 PM

Whether I liked it or not, it would be his right. It would also be my right to get up and walk away from him, grab a towel and cover up or to tell him he was being obnoxious and ask him not to take my photo. Putting hands on him or trying to grab his camera would be illegal and would result in an assault charge.


Jun-11-14 4:23 PM

Yes, as far as I know, all the information on the site that Beautiful Day posted is correct. As long as you are in a public place, you can take a picture of pretty much anything or anyone you want to take a picture of.

As a reporter, I do try to ask permission of the parents before I take a picture of a kid in public, particularly if I'm going to identify the child by name. It's a matter of courtesy and public relations, though, and not something I am legally required to do.


Jun-11-14 2:31 PM

This woman is just crazy. No one has the right to put their hands on someone else. However, I do not necessarily like the fact that someone can take my picture and publish it wherever they would like, as long as it isn't for commercial use. But, that's my opinion, not the law. I don't know how valid the information on this site is but it has some interesting tips: content. photojojo. com/tips/legal-rights-of-photographers/.


Jun-11-14 11:35 AM

If he'd physically touched her without her permission, that would probably have qualified as an assault, just as it was when she touched him. You also probably can't take pictures on a topless beach or nudist colony or upskirt photos, etc., without violating city, state or federal law. But photos of people in swimsuits on a public beach, even closeup photos, aren't illegal, judging by all the paparazzi photos of celebrities in the various tabloids.

The guy flying the drone plane was apparently a 17-year-old kid, so Ms. Mears also physically assaulted a minor.


Jun-11-14 1:10 AM

Armchair critique: It would have been so much better if the guy had the presence of mind to capture the footage of the incident using the drone. I know he was busy fending off blows and all, but a real artist suffers for his work.


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