C.J. Marshall: Significa: Trying to clear up a few misconceptions
A few years ago, I took a telephone call from a gentleman who was upset because The Daily Review had printed a report concerning his daughter's arrest.
The man insisted during the entire conversation that his daughter had never been arrested and the charges against her were untrue. I listened for a few minutes, then looked up the story and obtained the report from which the story was based. I informed the gentleman that according to our information - which had been provided by the district attorney's office - his daughter had been arrested and charged for the offenses which were duly reported in the paper.
This did not satisfy the fellow, who continued to insist that his daughter had never been arrested or officially charged. I told him politely that under such circumstances, he would have to contact the district attorney's office, who would in turn have to inform The Review that the report was in error before we could print a retraction.
As you've probably guessed, neither I nor any one else here at The Review heard anything from the district attorney's office on the matter, and so the story remained in place as reported. But although I could understand why the gentleman was upset under the circumstances, I couldn't help but be amused by what was apparently a number of misconceptions he was laboring under as he registered his indignation over what he believed was the "unfair" treatment of his daughter.
To begin with, I believe that the man was equating being arrested as being taken into custody - or more specifically, being incarcerated after being charged. Not true. In the eyes of the law, a person is considered "under arrest" if a law enforcement officer - a person with authority mind you - has prevented you from leaving a specific area in the performance of his or her duty. Thus, a person who had been stopped for a traffic violation - such as speeding, for example - is considered "under arrest" until the officer has completed his initial investigation and issued the proper citation. Once those duties have been performed, the person in question is released by the officer and is free to go about their business. If the charge is serious enough of course, the arrested person is taken into custody for further processing and possible incarceration.
I actually learned this information a few years ago when a police officer testified in court and explained all this for the benefit of the jury as part of the prosecution's presentation of its case. However, in preparing this column, I spoke with Bradford County District Attorney Daniel Barrett, who confirmed what appeared in the above paragraphs. Thanks, Dan.
My favorite misconception concerning the media is people who insist that I can't take their photographs (or videos) in public without their permission. I've had more arguments about this - going back to when I was a teenager just getting started out in the newspaper field - than any other subject involving the media. I recall one time taking a picture of a 10-year-old kid on a bicycle, who came down the street at me screaming obscenities that would have done a sailor proud after the deed was done. People have threatened to sue me more times than I care to count for taking their picture without permission, not realizing that as long as I do it in public, I don't need their permission.
I believe the misconception stems from the fact that in certain circumstances, photographers have clients sign release forms when they get their pictures taken. But that's only required if the photographer intends to use or sell the image for commercial profit. A news photographer, by contrast, is only using the picture to report the news, and as such their rights to take a photograph - even when the subject does not want it done - is protected under the First Amendment. Trouble is, a lot of people don't realize this, and prefer to cling to the belief that their desire for anonymity trumps the freedom of the press.
Oh well, such is life. I keep hoping that someday these misconceptions will be cleared up, but I don't anticipate it will be any time soon.
C.J. Marshall is a reporter and columnist for The Daily Review. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.