Can I be in legal trouble for photos someone else took?

The title may not give the whole picture. Cleaning out my garage, I found some undeveloped film. The film is a roll I took and I have no clue who took the pictures. Let’s say I take it in to be developed to see what’s on it and it and it turns out to have images of illegal activity - kiddie porn, photos of a murder, classified documents, etc.

Of course the film developers call the police and the cops show up on my doorstep to “chat” with me. How screwed am I?

It all comes down to whether you can successfully persuade the jury it wasn’t yours.

If it’s not yours then of course you’d be in no fault - but again, it all comes down to what the jury believes.

that’s confusing.
If you’re worried, you could develop it yourself.

Have a beer first.

If it’s a roll that you don’t remember at all, I guess you might somewhat cover your ass before developing it by having an independent witness make note of that and your intentions. If there’s something illegal on there, that doesn’t get you off the hook, the police are still going to look at you. But it adds some credibility to your position.

ETA: On second thoughts, maybe that makes it look even more suspicious, since that’s not something any innocent person would normally think to do, because the remote possibility of kiddie porn in their garage would not occur to them.

I just tossed out three undeveloped rolls of film that must be from the 1990s. I was surprised how easy it was and that I have no curiosity whatsoever about what was on them.

But I do; and now I’ll never know, and it will gnaw at me. Thanks. :angry:

There are no questions asked places to develop. But I do not suggest those as they make you look guilty.

If I were prone to blackmail, that’s exactly how I’d advertise my “no questions asked” film development business.

I’m confused. Is that to say that you loaned someone your camera?

I’ve read a couple of stories about people who bought old cameras and found that they had an unfinished roll of film inside. They had the film developed without incident but I suspect the buyers were collectors of old cameras. If they had a black and white film in them from 1950, there’s nobody recognizable in them. Example

But I googled and found this from someone who says he worked in the business.

I have called the cops twice for photos I will NOT describe to anyone, ever. People were arrested over those.

I’ll assume the film was color. If the film was in your garage, I wouldn’t expect great results because temperature swings affect it. Back in the day we’d put film in the fridge to maximize its life.

Here’s a guy shooting film that expired in 1990 and developing it. How it was stored is anybody’s guess. The images are ok…obviously they would have been better with fresh film but you can recognize everything in them.

I think it would be better if the roll had shots that involved some kind of criminal conspiracy. So then you can be on the run from both the conspirators, who know that they are culpable, and the authorities, who think that you are.

Paul Greengrass directs.

Persuading the police and then a prosecutor would come before a jury.

Irrelevant now but wayyy back in the mid-70’s I worked for a company that developed film. This was when every Walgreens didn’t have developer machines and it took a week to ten days to get your pictures back.

We looked at every picture going through (thousands per day) and it was a royal ball. $2.50 an hour an all the porn and weird images you could handle. Unbelievable how many guys were sending their womans pic to Hustler Beaver Hunt. And yes, some workers did make copies for their own use. I shit you not! We were supposed to tag “inappropriate” images but I don’t remember any that were even though there were plenty that could have been.

I must have miswrote it. I certainly never took it and have no clue how it ended up in my boxes in the garage.

Pull the film out in the bright sunlight and examine closely to see if you can make out anything. Then send it off to be developed.

Yeah, isn’t his how a typical spy movie begins? I’m thinking about an old classic, maybe with Cary Grant playing the OP…

So, St. Cad, have you always wanted to be an innocent caught up in international intrigue? Now, before you say no, part of the deal is that your life will be saved by a gorgeous femme fatale…

It’s similar to the story of “Blow-Up”, where a hip fashion photographer takes random photos in a park and detects a murder after developing the film.

Laws are different in different places but Eric Clapton recently sued a woman in Germany for trying to sell a bootleg recording of one of his concerts. She claimed she had no idea it was a bootleg and it is very likely she didn’t. Got sued anyway.

Clapton has backed off on nailing her with the costs since it became a big public bugaboo (and she probably, really, was innocently doing this with no clue) but it goes to show the laws can get you on this (at least in Germany but I would be surprised if the US was very different).

Point is, someone else broke the law and some person down the road innocently trying to sell the copyrighted work got nailed for it.

Depends what’s on the film. The law in most countries is that mere possession of child porn is illegal. if the film contains something questionably illegal, then the onus is on you to prove that you had no idea what the images were. Add to that, illegal is in the eye of the police and prosecutor. I suppose if the images were of something illegal like animal abuse you might still have to explain to the police.

But if it’s simply adult porn, AFAIK there’s nothing illegal in that - just the risk the photos will appear on the internet, depending on the discretion of the shop.

Even saying “I found them in the old garage” does not prove that you aren’t covering for a friend who asked you to see if you could get away with developing them for him.

My suggestion is - if you really really want to know but suspect it’s questionable but don’t want your old family nudes all over the internet, then develop it yourself. C41 colour developing chemicals are about $100 or so, plus you’ll need a film tank. If it’s black and white, a lot cheaper. If the images are even close to recognizable, a scanner and photoshop can probably make the images passable. (I have some old holiday film where half of it was severely underexposed, a few minutes with photoshop rescued much of the colour.) I’ve developed colour picture enlargements myself back in the day, but not film. My logic was that the only thing I could do that a lab would not is mess it up. But that was long before photoshop.

If you think it’s illegal content, burn it - the sooner the better. Or expose the film. If it’s not worth $100 to find out - expose the film. Or if you’re pretty sure the worst it could be is embarrassing and that doesn’t bother you, have it developed.

I would toss it.

While the chances of something incriminating being found are minuscule, so are the odds of finding something interesting.


You wouldn’t by chance live in Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, or North Dakota, would you?

Back in ‘96 we took a trip that covered those states and along the way we lost one of our rolls of film. Maybe you gots our vacation pix.