A new Arizona law makes recording police officers within 8 feet of them illegal

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A bill signed into law in Arizona on Wednesday makes taking videos of police officers within 8 feet of law enforcement activity illegal. The law, which takes effect in September, was sponsored by Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh and signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

A new Arizona law makes recording police officers within 8 feet of them illegal - Freedom News Politics

According to the law, “it is unlawful for a person to knowingly make a video recording of law enforcement activity if the person making the video recording is within eight feet of where the person knows or reasonably should know that law enforcement activity is occurring.”

A person who records police within 8 feet of them may face a misdemeanor charge after being warned to back up once.

The law states that it applies to situations in which a police officer is questioning a suspicious person, conducting an arrest, issuing a summons, or enforcing the law, and dealing with an emotionally disturbed person who is exhibiting abnormal behavior.

It makes an exception for police activity on private property where the person recording is authorized to be on the property, but it also states that an officer can order the person recording to leave the area if the officer “determines that the person is interfering in the law enforcement activity.”

A person who is the subject of police activity may also record as long as they are not handcuffed, searched, or subjected to a field sobriety test, according to the law.

People in a vehicle stopped by police can also record “if the occupants are not interfering with lawful police actions,” according to the law.

In February, the National Press Photographers Association issued a letter condemning the bill as unconstitutional. The bill proposed at the time that people could not take videos of police officers from more than 15 feet away.

We are extremely concerned that this language violates not only the First Amendment’s free speech and press clauses. But also the “clearly established right” to photograph and record police officers performing their official duties in a public place. Said the letter, signed by The Associated Press, The New York Times Company, and other organizations.

“We believe that requiring “permission of a law enforcement officer” and establishing a minimum distance of fifteen feet between the law enforcement officer and the person recording would not withstand a constitutional challenge and is completely unworkable in situations (such as demonstrations and protests) where there are multiple officers and people recording,” the letter stated.

Kavanagh wrote in a March op-ed that he had made concessions on the bill, lowering the buffer zone and adding exceptions.

He stated that he introduced the bill for the sake of safety. “Getting very close to police officers in tense situations is a dangerous practice that can result in tragedy,” wrote Kavanagh.

He also stated that he believes the law will not have an impact on the integrity of police recordings. “A video shot from 8 feet away likely captures the entire scene, providing more information and context,” he wrote.

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