A disabled veteran visiting the VA hospital in Tennessee had his cell phone snatched and was issued a bogus citation after police harassed him for his dog not having a muzzle on.
According to Photography is not a Crime, 54-year-old Todd MacRae had been dropped off at the hospital by his daughter two hours prior to his appointment to have tests done following an open-heart surgery last year. He brought his service dog into the Starbucks with him to wait until his appointment time and that’s when the police came and harassed him, eventually forcing him to leave and miss his appointment.
MacRae has been visiting a cardiologist at the hospital weekly since 1998 and said that the problems with the police started about three weeks ago when he had a disagreement with his new cardiologist. She accused him of lying and he got upset so police came to the room. But by the time they had shown up everything was fine and they were no longer needed.
After he left the room he said he was confronted by the police, who were waiting for him and upset that he had ordered them out of the room. The police accused him of “disturbing the peace” and ordered him to go down to their main office so he could be issued a citation.
After exchanging words with the officers, MacRae claims they started to make fun of his being in a wheelchair, calling his dog vicious, and even questioning his service in the military. MacRae says that his dog Belle, a Belgium Malinois, has never bitten anyone in her life.
This last time when MacRae went to the hospital, officers again accused his dog of being vicious and that’s why he kept asking them to back away. Unlike his previous two encounters, he recorded this incident but the cops kept telling him that it was illegal to do so. However in Tennessee it’s perfectly legal to record police.
They snatched his phone from him and held it for two hours while they tried to get psychologists to involuntarily commit him, however after speaking with him they realized that it wasn’t necessary.
He ended up with several citations for the encounter, one of which was “unlawful photography,” which is an obscure law mainly intended to stop the dissemination of images depicting minors and voyeurism.
“They clearly believe that just because I’m disabled, that I am unable to stand up for my rights,” he said.
The Tennessee statute regarding unlawful photography is below:
(a) It is an offense for a person to knowingly photograph, or cause to be photographed an individual, when the individual is in a place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, without the prior effective consent of the individual, or in the case of a minor, without the prior effective consent of the minor’s parent or guardian, if the photograph:
(1) Would offend or embarrass an ordinary person if such person appeared in the photograph; and
(2) Was taken for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of the defendant.
(b) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, “photograph” means any photograph or photographic reproduction, still or moving, or any videotape or live television transmission of any individual so that the individual is readily identifiable.
(c) All photographs taken in violation of this section shall be confiscated and, after their use as evidence, destroyed.
(d) (1) A violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor.
(2) If the defendant disseminates or permits the dissemination of the photograph to any other person, a violation of this section is a Class E felony.