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Old 10-04-2006, 05:29 AM   #31
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Location: Indianapolis IN
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Again, the legal gray zone, define threat.
Most decisions made by police and by the courts usually are made by the "reasonable person" test. Would the actions of this person lead a reasonable and prudent person to come to the same conclusion as the police officer/court?

What is a threat? Well lets say a person is staring you down, fists clenched, in a fighting stance. Would these actions lead a resonable person to believe this person was a threat? I would say yes, it would.

How this pertains to railfans I believe is this: If you are questioned by police and either try to hide what you are doing, or try to argue with the police, the situation will turn sour (for you) pretty quickly. If you answer straight up "I am taking pictures of trains, it is my hobby." the situation will probably go a lot better. Cops are good at sniffing out a liar, because they have been lied to so much in the past.

Summary: If by your actions and the observations by an officer would lead a reasonable person to believe you are up to no good, or in a place you shouldn't be, the officer is gonna draw the same conclusions.

What happened in the article above was a CLEAR violation of the 4th Amendment. And hopefully as you may remember from civics class, the laws of the Constitution cannot be overriden by any law except an Amendment, approved by Congress. The last Amendment was in 1992.
Was the search unreasonable? While taking the report in the paper at face value, it would appear that this true. However, do we know if that refinery has been listed as a possible target? Has it been the scene of past criminal activities? Was the person in a place he shouldn't have been? All of these could give officer's probable cause to seize the camera and have the contents checked.

I don't understand why photographers from this country get hassled unless they are trespassing. If there is no sign that says "public not allowed", I don't feel (and legally know) that there is no case against being there.
Because "trespassing" is against the law maybe? If you are one someone else's private property, and they don't want you there, you cannot be there. There is no "choo-choo" or "railfan" exception.

I would suggest brushing up on your paticular areas laws against trespassing before going out, just to make sure you have all your ducks in a row.

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