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A new Arizona law makes it illegal to film encounters with law enforcement from less than 8 feet away, except in certain circumstances, such as when you’re driving. B. if the recording person is questioned by the authorities.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed into law Wednesday making it a misdemeanor to record police activity at close range after officers issued a verbal warning.
Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh, who sponsored the law, wrote in an Arizona Republic comment that the purpose is to guard against distractions and potential harm, especially when police are involved in violent encounters. He wrote police told him groups who were “hostile” to officers were following and filming 1 to 2 feet behind them, which Kavanagh described as “a dangerous practice that can result in tragedy”.
“I can’t think of any reason why a responsible person would need to get closer than 8ft to a police officer who is involved in a hostile or potentially hostile encounter. Such an approach is unreasonable, unnecessary and unsafe and should be made illegal,” Kavanagh wrote in the comment.
Are the police trying to stop you from taking this cell phone video? Check your First Amendment rights.
At a time when cellphone cameras have proven helpful in capturing police encounters and holding law enforcement officers accountable, critics say the law restricts people’s right to be recorded in public places.
“A blanket restriction is a violation of the First Amendment,” Stephen D. Solomon, director of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, who teaches First Amendment law, told the Washington Post.
More than 60 percent of the U.S. population lives in states — including Arizona — where federal appeals courts have recognized the First Amendment right to record police officers performing their public duties, according to a Citizen’s Guide to Police Record-keeping from NYU’s First Amendment Watch .
Solomon, editor of the online news site, said it’s not an absolute right. There are some limitations such as B. Appropriate time, place and type restrictions that courts may impose to discourage people from disturbing the police. But there is no set distance recognized by federal courts because it depends on the situation, he said.
“Who says 8 feet is the appropriate distance? In some circumstances it might be, but in other circumstances it might not,” he said, asking how such a law would be enforced amid a street demonstration where crowds with cellphones are surrounded by police officers.
Solomon said the new law will have a “deterrent effect”.
“If you know the limit is 8 feet, you might stay 15 or 20 feet away or not record at all for fear the police will take you into custody,” he said.
You have the right to film the police. This is how it works effectively – and safely.
The law will allow some exceptions to the 8-foot rule with limitations. For example, the bill says that if a police encounter occurs in an enclosed area on private property, a person authorized to do so may record closer than 8 feet — “unless a law enforcement officer determines the person is interfering with the area’s law enforcement activities.” ‘ or it is unsafe. The bill defines “law enforcement activity” as an officer interviewing a suspect, an officer making an arrest, or an officer handling a situation involving “an emotionally disturbed or disordered person.”
In addition, an interviewee can record within an 8-foot radius of the law enforcement officer, and during a traffic stop, the occupants of the vehicle can also record the encounter – as long as no one “interferes with lawful police action,” such as a search, handcuffing, or conducting a sobriety test on site.
The law will come into force in September.