A new bill signed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) will make close-range recordings of police illegal. The law is set to go into effect on September 24.
House Bill 2319, which was sponsored by state Rep. John Kavanagh, will make it illegal for anyone to record law enforcement “within eight feet of where the person knows or reasonably should know that law enforcement activity is occurring.” Those who break the law could face a misdemeanor if they continue to record police after being verbally warned not to.
As noted by USA Today, the rule does include certain exceptions, such as for people in their vehicle during traffic stops, people directly involved in the police interaction, and events that unfold on private property.
Kavanagh initially proposed the bill with a 15-foot restriction but reduced the length to 8-feet in response to criticism. While supporters say the bill is meant to protect law enforcement from harm or distraction, it has also garnered much opposition from critics who claim that it is unconstitutional.
“I think this fully conforms with constitutionality and weighs officer safety with the citizens’ right, the public’s right, to see law enforcement officers in action,” Kavanagh told the Associated Press in February.
On the other hand, Gregg Leslie of the ASU First Amendment Clinic said: “With cell phone cameras, it just became more and more common for bystanders to whip out a camera and start recording police. Those people were often arrested and courts were asked, ‘Is there a right to record police in the performance of their duty in public?’ And any court that has directly answered that question has said, yes, there is.”
He added, “I think in most cases that I can see it coming up, the court would say this is a direct regulation of constitutionally protected conduct and it won’t be applied.”
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