ACLU, State of Hawai‘i settle dispute over First Amendment right to take photographs in public

HONOLULU, HAWAI`I: The First Amendment right of individuals to take photographs in public was re-affirmed in an agreement reached between the ACLU of Hawai‘i Foundation (“ACLU”) and the State of Hawai‘i.

The dispute arose when an amateur photographer was cited by a state Sheriff for taking pictures of airplanes from a public sidewalk along Lagoon Drive (near the Honolulu International Airport) without a permit. According to the ACLU, no permit is needed for this public area frequented by joggers, tourists, aircraft enthusiasts, and other amateur photographers.

After the ACLU and cooperating attorney Bronson Avila of the Law Offices of Brook Hart notified the Department of the Attorney General (“Department”) about the citation, the Department took immediate corrective action to ensure that all Sheriffs were aware of the First Amendment right to photograph in public; the Department further agreed to begin the process of amending the Hawai‘i Administrative Rules.

Bronson Avila of the Law Offices of Brook Hart said: “The Attorney General’s prompt response reflects a commitment to First Amendment rights. Furthermore, the State avoided a lawsuit and saved taxpayers a significant expense. We could not envision a better outcome to this incident.”

Daniel Gluck, ACLU of Hawai‘i Legal Director, added: “It’s important that the State made clear the fundamental right of an individual to photograph in public. This is a win for freedom of speech and expression.”

The ACLU of Hawaii’s First Amendment Toolkit includes reference information on the public’s right to photograph and film in public spaces (with an emphasis on law enforcement encounters):