An Oregon man who was filming the police was convicted of interfering with the official duties of police officers after the man refused to stay away from a police dog who was searching for a suspect. The Oregon appeals court rejected the man’s First Amendment-based defense.
Ryan James Gardiner was filming police in Hillsboro, Ore., who were searching for a suspect who had attacked a woman with a knife. The police had a K-9 dog tracker on the scent of the suspect, and Gardiner was filming the police and the dog. The police told Gardiner to move away from the police dog, but also said he could continue filming the officers. When Gardiner refused to move away from the dog, police arrested him for interfering with their official duties. It was not clear when the incident occurred.
At his trial, Gardiner rendered a conditional guilty plea, which gave him the option of challenging the conviction on appeal. Gardiner argued he had a constitutional right to film the police officers under both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the free-speech provision of the Oregon Constitution.
However, the Oregon Court of Appeals rejected his argument on Nov. 29, 2023, in State v. Gardiner. The appeals court noted that the officers told Gardiner he could continue to film them but that he had to stay away from the dog that was tracking the suspect.
The appeals court concluded: “The state advanced the legitimate interests of enforcing the statute for three reasons, which we find to be appropriate: (1) an armed suspect may have been present in the area; (2) there were public and police officer safety concerns because of that armed suspect; (3) and the situation was not static because there were no defined search boundaries.”
David L. Hudson Jr. teaches First Amendment law and constitutional law classes at Belmont University College of Law. He is the author, co-author, or co-editor of more than 50 books, including The Constitution Explained: A Guide for Every American (Visible Ink Press, 2022) and The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech (Thomson Reuters, 2012).
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