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Find Out How Police Used Provision in Healthcare Law to Confiscate Man’s Camera and Charge Him With Crimes

Posted by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 4:46 AM
  • 12 Replies


Find Out How Police Used Provision in Healthcare Law to Confiscate Man’s Camera and Charge Him With Crimes

Andrew Henderson Charges With Misdemeanors After Police Take His Camera, Citing Healthcare Law

Andrew Henderson and his camera with the parking lot of his Little Canada apartment building in the background. He filmed Ramsey Co. deputies arresting a man in the parking lot and had his camera confiscated and was charged with obstructing justice. He plans to sue. (Pioneer Press: John Doman)

As a bloody-faced man was frisked by sheriff’s deputies and loaded into an ambulance, 28-year-old Andrew Henderson was recording the scene with his video camera — as he regularly does with law enforcement.

But as he recorded outside his apartment building in Little Canada, Minn., Henderson was approached by one of the deputies, Jacqueline Muellner, who then ripped the camera out of his grip.

“We’ll just take this for evidence,” Muellner said, the voices of the officers captured on Henderson’s cellphone. “If I end up on YouTube, I’m gonna be upset.” A copy of the cellphone audio was provided to the Pioneer Press.

A week after his camera was taken on Oct. 30, 2012, Henderson was charged with obstruction of legal process and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. Henderson is adamant that he did nothing wrong.

Henderson explained to the Ramsey County sheriff’s deputies that he was within his rights to be there and to record them on video. He also refused to identify himself, according to the Pioneer Press.

The day after his camera was confiscated, Henderson went to the Arden Hills sheriff’s substation to get it back. He was told he would have to wait, but instead of a camera, he later received the two misdemeanor charges.

Henderson returned again around Nov. 17 to get a copy of the police report and retrieve his camera. Deputy Dan Eggers refused to provide him with either but had some words for him.

“I think that what (the deputies) felt was you were interfering with someone’s privacy that was having a medical mental health breakdown,” Eggers said in a conversation recorded by Henderson. “They felt like you were being a ‘buttinski’ by getting that camera in there and partially recording what was going on in a situation that you were not directly involved in.”

Unfortunately for Eggers, there is no law against being a so-called “buttinski.”

The Press has more details on the reasoning behind the charges:

The deputy wrote on the citation, “While handling a medical/check the welfare (call), (Henderson) was filming it. Data privacy HIPAA violation. Refused to identify self. Had to stop dealing with sit(uation) to deal w/Henderson.”

Henderson appeared in Ramsey County District Court on Jan. 2. A pretrial hearing was rescheduled for Jan. 30.

The allegation that his recording of the incident violated HIPAA, or the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is nonsense, said Jennifer Granick, a specialist on privacy issues at Stanford Law School.

The rule deals with how health care providers handle consumers’ health information.

“There’s nothing in HIPAA that prevents someone who’s not subject to HIPAA from taking photographs on the public streets,” Granick said. “HIPAA has absolutely nothing to say about that.”

Henderson’s case, the latest in a number of incidents involving citizens recording police officers, is now gaining national attention.

Jane Kirtley, professor of media ethics and media law at the University of Minnesota, told the Pioneer Press that she wished “the police around the country would get the memo on these situations.”

“Somebody needs to explain to them that under U.S. law, making video recordings of something that’s happening in public is legal,” she added. “Law enforcement has no expectation of privacy when they are carrying out public duties in a public place.”

The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office is refusing to comment on the case, saying it involves an “ongoing investigation.”

However, he did specify that, “It is not our policy to take video cameras. It is everybody’s right to (record) … What happens out in public happens out in public.”

Henderson said he plans to see the case through if the charges against him aren’t dropped. In other words, he will not be accepting any plea deals.

“I’m in the right,” he said. “If they don’t drop it, I’m definitely going to trial.”

by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 4:46 AM
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by Gold Member on Jan. 9, 2013 at 7:58 AM

HIPPA was around before the Healthcare Law, but if filmed from a public street the camera guy did NOT violate HIPPA laws.  If he broke the law, then ever other person who filmed accident footage involving injured persons would have broken the law as well. 

by SenseandSensibility on Jan. 9, 2013 at 8:01 AM

HIPAA has been around for a while now; I remember when I was working for the dental office and we had to have every patient who walked in sign paperwork, it was a big task when the law was first implemented.  I also remember being at the Walgreen's counter signing the privacy statement before getting a medication and hearing the clerk at the drive up window loudly yelling on the microphone about the person at the window's medical problems and laughing over the "privacy".

Interesting use of the law that it violates the privacy of the arrested who may be ill.

by Bronze Member on Jan. 9, 2013 at 1:08 PM
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HIPAA isn't a health care law, at least not in the sense that the headline is suggesting.

It's really a privacy law, that predates Obamacare.

That said, this kind of thing goes on a lot.  Someone is arrested for doing something the police didn't like, and then prosecutors find whatever law they can to charge them with, especially if there's a public or personal reason to do so.  It annoys me often.

If HIPAA truly doesn't apply, I hope Henderson has a good lawyer who can make an abuse of process or harassment case.

by Gold Member on Jan. 9, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Also Scotus has recently ruled that it is legal to film police when they are carrying out their duties

by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 3:00 PM

 Good for him! I'm sick and tired of our cops thinking they are god. I dont care why, whether it's political or just a personal thing,  The law is what it is and you cannot make it up as you go.

by Ruby Member on Jan. 9, 2013 at 4:11 PM

Yes, that's what HIPAA means!

Everyone knows confidentiality of protected medical information trumps our First Amendment freedom of speech to watch and film police activity.

by Gold Member on Jan. 9, 2013 at 8:51 PM

Apparently the cop just didn't want to get in trouble for whatever reason.

No laws were violated at all by filming the whole incident, and certainly no HIPPA laws were violated.

Hope this guy wins millions from the cop shop.

by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 9:01 PM
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HIPPA isnt related to Obamacare.

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by on Jan. 10, 2013 at 12:37 AM
1 mom liked this

On a public street? yea. I hope he sues.

by Primrose Foxglove on Jan. 10, 2013 at 8:16 AM

I'm glad he's going through with the trial if they don't cooperate.  He's definitely within his rights.

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