U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Miami freelancer has phone and camera seized by police

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 25, 2019
Miami, Florida
Status of Seized Equipment
Returned in full
Search Warrant Obtained
May 25, 2019

Miami freelance photographer Jacob Katel had his phone and camera seized by police after he attempted to take pictures of a motorcycle crash on May 25, 2019.

According to Miami New Times, Katel stopped while en route to Miami Beach to take photographs of the crash, which was causing a traffic standstill. Katel took out his camera, but before he even snapped a photograph, a Miami police officer handcuffed him and seized his camera and phone.

Katel explained that he was a reporter, and even offered to leave the scene, but he was detained and questioned by police. He was released without charge, but police retained his equipment, claiming that they were “evidence.”

Miami New Times reported that Katel was able to retrieve the cellphone and camera on May 30.

"I feel if they did this to me, it happens to a lot of people," Katel told Miami New Times. "I feel if I was anybody except me, I might have gotten kicked in the head or shot."

Katel filed complaints with the Miami Police Department internal affairs office, and with the city’s independent police oversight board.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].