What are the legal ramifications for the crew members of A&E's Intervention?
January 22, 2008 6:33 PM   Subscribe

What are the legal ramifications for the crew members (camerapeople, producers, etc.) of a show like Intervention when the "stars" do illegal things?

A&E's awesome show Intervention is typically filled with footage of people taking drugs, driving under the influence, and doing other illegal things like prostitution. Can the people witnessing, filming, and/or being in the presence of these illegal acts be held liable for anything?

If a cop walks on in two guys with cameras filming someone shooting drugs into his arm, surely they're not just going to walk away because they're filming a popular TV show. How does the law work in this situation?

This question popped into my head as I was watching a recent episode where one of the addicts solicited a prostitute, told her the crew was paying, and then didn't have any money to pay. He could have been killed for it, and the pimp stole all his shit, right in front of the crew.
posted by nitsuj to Law & Government (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
NYT article on the topic.
“Intervention,” has never been sued. And legal experts said that making a case against it or other documentary programs like it would be difficult because the subjects were being filmed in their own homes, engaging in activities that they would be pursuing regardless of whether a camera crew was there.

“This is their life with me or without me,” said Sam Mettler, “Intervention’s” creator and executive producer. The program takes other steps, like requiring potential subjects to undergo psychological evaluations and keeping a family member of the addict on call 24 hours a day during filming, to avoid being negligent.

To make a case for negligence, legal experts said, the accusing party would need to prove that the reality program created a situation that put its subjects in jeopardy.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:41 PM on January 22, 2008


To further clarify, I'm looking at what the ramifications are with the police, not with the abuser's family and loved ones in a case of negligence.
posted by nitsuj at 6:44 PM on January 22, 2008


Though there are some answers in the same article (thanks for the link!):
And legally, producers are treated like witnesses: they bear no responsibility to intervene.

“The law in the United States doesn’t require you to step in and save people,” said David Sternbach, counsel for litigation and intellectual property matters for A&E Television Networks. “And it doesn’t require you to stop a crime that’s in the works.”
posted by nitsuj at 6:46 PM on January 22, 2008


I saw that episode last night and was thinking along the same lines. Also, if anyone has any behind the scenes or inside info as to how the show's put together, I'd really dig it.
posted by item at 6:48 PM on January 22, 2008


Also, anyone know if the producers routinely give the subjects money? On more than one occasion, it's seemed like the have.
posted by item at 6:50 PM on January 22, 2008


There are some gray areas involved here. This subject was brought up on NPR the other day in reference to a Chicago sociologist who, in the process of doing field research for his new book "Gang Leader For A Day", became privy to information on upcoming gang activities as well as being present during crimes in progress. Evidently this put him at legal risk. Documentary/news filmmakers deal with these issues all the time, I imagine the legal ramifications for those involved are dependent on the type of crime captured as well as the degree to which the filmmaker is involved.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 7:00 PM on January 22, 2008


I was wondering this when I watched last night, too. I swear I have seen an episode or two where the producers/crew have stepped in, but I can't remember the circumstances.

I've never noticed any implication that the producers give the subjects money.
posted by clh at 7:19 PM on January 22, 2008


I would guess that the crew would serve as witnesses. The courts could subpoena them for testimony and the video would be great evidence.

If they aren't actually providing for the illegal acts to happen I don't think they could be considered accessories.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 7:49 PM on January 22, 2008


The law varies by state of course. And FWIW, IAAPO.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 7:51 PM on January 22, 2008


An incredible show. I've wondered the same thing.

I have seen several times where a producer has prevented someone from driving when they were under the influence.
posted by The Deej at 7:55 PM on January 22, 2008


I've seen crew members intervene (no pun intended) on Intervention -- one I can remember for sure is when an alcoholic was going to drive. In that case I seem to recall the guy resisted help but the crew followed him closely as he drove; on on at least one other occasion I remember the crew either convincing a woman to give up her keys or drove her.
posted by loiseau at 7:56 PM on January 22, 2008


And legally, producers are treated like witnesses: they bear no responsibility to intervene.

“The law in the United States doesn’t require you to step in and save people,” said David Sternbach, counsel for litigation and intellectual property matters for A&E Television Networks. “And it doesn’t require you to stop a crime that’s in the works.”


That isn't always true. I know with child abuse, emergency room physicians, or even suicide hotline people MUST get social services involved. True that children are probably different than adults, but I wonder if knowingly allowing a drunk person drive a car isn't against the law.
(Although how much you must do to stop that would likely be an issue)
posted by xetere at 8:06 PM on January 22, 2008


I wonder if knowingly allowing a drunk person drive a car isn't against the law.

I am willing to bet that this heavily depends on the state that the violation occurs in. In my state you wouldn't be looking at criminal charges in this instance, but open youreself up to be sued big time.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 8:16 PM on January 22, 2008


xetere, those are mandated reporters.
posted by devilsbrigade at 8:18 PM on January 22, 2008


in response to item's question: I've seen episode where the cameraman and/or producer have outright refused to give them any money or assist in any of the addictive behavior. And there was at least one episode where an addict was in an acute depressive state and was holed up in a culvert, where they called the family or loved one to come to the location to pick him up.
posted by pmalek at 10:03 PM on January 22, 2008


I'm definitely no expert here at all. But my experiences have lead me to believe that if the police were to come knocking while such activities were taking place, they would arrest everyone that is there and let the judicial system work things out.
posted by nickerbocker at 10:55 PM on January 22, 2008


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