A police sergeant in Galveston, Texas, has been indicted for criminal trespass charges after allegedly unlawfully searching the car of a video activist.
In November 2015, Philip Turner was observed filming license plates and the arrivals and departures of police officers from the station, the Houston Chronicle reports. Turner, who is a correspondent for website photographyisnotacrime.com, was detained by Sgt. Archie Chapman and charged with failure to provide identification to an officer. Chapman then "located, entered, and searched" Turner's car in order to find his driver's license to book him into jail.
Chapman was concerned about the safety of the police officers and other staff who work in the building, said his attorney, Greg Cagle. "Sgt. Chapman was trying to do his job as a police officer," said Cagle. "He had no motive other than to protect the public and the officers."
Turner says that he was conducting what he called a "First Amendment test," to see if the police department knew that he had a right to be there filming, according to the Galveston Country Daily News. He said that, by arresting him, they failed that test and proved his point. Acting Police Chief David Smith said at the time that Turner was arrested not for filming, but because police thought his actions were suspicious.
The video of the arrest, posted to YouTube, shows police officers asking Turner several times if he was filming license plates at the station. After Turner's arrest, officers shut off the camera that he had been using to film.
The incident was not the first time Turner was arrested for filming. In September 2015, he was arrested outside of the Fort Worth Police Department, for filming outside of the station. He also filed a lawsuit against the Round Rock Police Department, who arrested Turner for failing to present identification.
According to Cagle, Chapman has not yet been arrested - a judge must sign off on the grand jury's indictment for the arrest to be made. Prosecutors have said that Chapman could face a maximum of 180 days in prison and a fine of up to $2,000, if he is found guilty.