Sunday, July 17, 2011

Orange County Sheriff Harassment in my Neighborhood

Well, it finally happened. My wife and I got a small taste of law enforcement harassment for taking a photo of an unmarked car sitting in a speedtrap in our neighborhood. Today he was sitting at the Banyan entrance/exit from Apopka Vineland Road.

Orange Counter Sheriff Unmarked Front
Unmarked Orange County Sheriff Front View

I first saw him as we turned into the neighborhood from Apopka Vineland onto Banyan. I try to pay attention to what goes on in the neighborhood, and the unmarked silver Pontiac Grand Prix, with heavily tinted windows, stood out like a sour thumb. What made the car even more suspicious was the smoke tinted plastic over the rear license plate. You couldn't clearly read the license, in violation of Florida statute 316.605.

I drove to the first turn on Banyan from Apopka Vineland, turned left onto Mulberry Lane, made a U-turn on  Mulberry, then drove back towards Apopka Vineland and past the car. That's when my wife and I both saw the Orange County Sheriff in the driver's side with the window down. I drove back to the Banyan entrance, made another U-turn back onto Banyan, then drove back to Mulberry and turned left again and stopped. That's when things got interesting.

I carry three cameras with me most of the time; my Olympus E-1, E-3, and E-P2. I've got the 12-60mm mounted on the E-1, the 50-200mm mounted on E-3, and the 17mm pancake on the E-P2. When I pulled onto Mulberry I pulled up enough not to be on the corner but still have a clear view of the car. I pulled out my E-3, and while sitting in my car with the window down, proceeded to take a series of photos. It's rather hard to hide the use of the E-3 with 50-200mm. That's when the officer noticed, started his car and decided to come in pursuit of me.

When he started moving I put the E-3 in the back and started down Mulberry moving myself. He then turned on his lights and pulled us over. He then walked up and asked me if he could help. I told him I lived in the neighborhood and I pay attention to the unusual. That's when he asked to see my ID and registration. I pulled out my license and showed it to him. Before I could reach for my registration he said "that's fine", that he wanted to make sure I lived in the neighborhood. I wonder if I would have been ticketed for some trumped up charge if I hadn't.

Orange Counter Sheriff Unmarked Rear
Unmarked Orange County Sheriff Car - License # Q2O-2FN

If the officer hadn't decided to chase me down and harass me, I wouldn't have been provided this wonderful view of the statute-violating tag on the rear of his unmarked vehicle. This is the kind of licence cover that would earn a civilian a ticket every time a cop sees it. The only way I was able to read his tag clearly was to post-process the image to black and white with Lightroom 3.4.1 and Silver Efex Pro 2 in order to make the license clear enough to read.

I'm not exactly thrilled to say this, but I've finally had a taste of what you read about on the web site Photography is Not a Crime. I've photographed a lot of speed traps, but I've never been harassed for it until now.

Florida statute 316.605 Licensing of vehicles.—

(1) Every vehicle, at all times while driven, stopped, or parked upon any highways, roads, or streets of this state, shall be licensed in the name of the owner thereof in accordance with the laws of this state unless such vehicle is not required by the laws of this state to be licensed in this state and shall, except as otherwise provided in s. 320.0706 for front-end registration license plates on truck tractors and s. 320.086(5) which exempts display of license plates on described former military vehicles, display the license plate or both of the license plates assigned to it by the state, one on the rear and, if two, the other on the front of the vehicle, each to be securely fastened to the vehicle outside the main body of the vehicle not higher than 60 inches and not lower than 12 inches from the ground and no more than 24 inches to the left or right of the centerline of the vehicle, and in such manner as to prevent the plates from swinging, and all letters, numerals, printing, writing, and other identification marks upon the plates regarding the word “Florida,” the registration decal, and the alphanumeric designation shall be clear and distinct and free from defacement, mutilation, grease, and other obscuring matter, so that they will be plainly visible and legible at all times 100 feet from the rear or front. Vehicle license plates shall be affixed and displayed in such a manner that the letters and numerals shall be read from left to right parallel to the ground. No vehicle license plate may be displayed in an inverted or reversed position or in such a manner that the letters and numbers and their proper sequence are not readily identifiable. Nothing shall be placed upon the face of a Florida plate except as permitted by law or by rule or regulation of a governmental agency. No license plates other than those furnished by the state shall be used. However, if the vehicle is not required to be licensed in this state, the license plates on such vehicle issued by another state, by a territory, possession, or district of the United States, or by a foreign country, substantially complying with the provisions hereof, shall be considered as complying with this chapter. A violation of this subsection is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.