New Arizona law will make it illegal to check in on police officers closer than 8 feet
A bill signed into law in Arizona on Wednesday will make it illegal to take police videos within 8 feet of law enforcement activity.
The law, which will take effect in September, was sponsored by State Rep. John Kavanagh and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, both Republicans.
“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 taking place,” the law states.
A person registering police within 8ft can face a misdemeanor charge, after being warned once to back off.
The law applies to situations in which a police officer questions a suspicious person, makes an arrest, issues a summons, or enforces the law and deals with an emotionally disturbed person who exhibits abnormal behavior, according to the law.
It provides exceptions for policing activities on private property, in which the person recording is permitted to be on the property, but clarifies that an officer can order the person recording to leave the area if “the officer law enforcement determines that the person is interfering with law enforcement activity.”
The law also states that a person who is the subject of police activity can record as long as they are not handcuffed, searched or subjected to a field sobriety test.
And people in a vehicle that has been stopped by police can record “if the occupants do not interfere with the lawful actions of the police”, according to the law.
The National Press Photographers Association in February wrote a bill denunciation letter, saying it was unconstitutional. At the time, the bill proposed that people could not take police videos 15 feet or less away.
“We are extremely concerned that this language not only violates the freedom of speech and press clauses of the First Amendment, but also violates the ‘clearly established right’ to photograph and record police officers carrying out 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 ‘law enforcement officer’s permission’ and establishing a fifteen foot minimum distance between the law enforcement officer and the person recording, would not survive a challenge. constitutional and is completely impractical in situations (such as protests and demonstrations) where multiple officers and individuals are recording,” the letter states.
In a March editorialKavanagh wrote that he made concessions on the bill, lowering the buffer zone and adding the exceptions.
He said he introduced the bill for security reasons. “Getting close to police in tense situations is a dangerous practice that can end in tragedy,” Kavanagh wrote.
He also said he believed the law would not affect the integrity of police records. “Video taken from 8 feet away likely captures the whole scene, providing more information and better context,” he wrote.
Videos of law enforcement interactions have become an increasingly useful tool for exposing police misconduct.