Can the police photograph a juvenile who is temporarily detained?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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State and federal laws vary as to whether a juvenile who is temporarily detained by law enforcement officers may be photographed. If you are a juvenile, or are the parent of a juvenile, and a photograph of the juvenile has been taken by a police officer, consider consulting an experienced juvenile defense attorney.

The word “detained” is vague. A juvenile may be detained on the street momentarily by a police officer. Or a juvenile may be detained for hours in custody in a police station. In either case, the following facts are relevant:

  • Was the juvenile was arrested?
  • Did a law enforcement officer have reasonable suspicion to detain the juvenile?
  • What was the age of the juvenile at the time?
  • What is the type of offense for which the juvenile was arrested?

Consent may also be a factor. If the juvenile gave their consent to having their photograph taken, it may be difficult to object to the photograph’s introduction into evidence. It matters whether the juvenile knew the person taking their picture was a law enforcement officer. It also matters whether the juvenile knew that their picture was being taken to identify them as a suspect in a juvenile delinquency or adult criminal case.

The legality of taking photographs of a juvenile is usually questioned when a prosecutor seeks to admit a photograph as evidence. If a photograph of a juvenile was taken in violation of state or federal law, you have the right to object to its admission into evidence.

State and federal districts have different laws about law enforcement agencies’ retention of photographs of juveniles. In some states, a law enforcement agency may keep a photograph of a juvenile and access it during an active criminal investigation. This allows the juvenile to be identified as a suspect in cases that do not relate to the charge for which they were arrested.

The legality of a photograph of a juvenile depends on the circumstances, consult an experienced juvenile defense attorney for guidance in your specific case.

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