New Arizona law makes it illegal to record police within 8 feet

Rush Hour

(NewsNation) — An Arizona bill that makes it illegal to videotape police within 8 feet of law enforcement activity was signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey this week.

Violators who continue recording after a verbal warning could face a misdemeanor charge under the new rule, which goes into effect in September.

House Bill 2319, sponsored by Republican State Rep. John Kavanaugh, makes an exception for anyone who’s the subject of a police interaction. For example, a driver who is pulled over could record the exchange lawfully so long as they don’t interfere with police duties. Passengers would also be allowed to record.

Rep. Kavanaugh, who is also a former cop, told NewsNation he didn’t have a problem with people recording police but was concerned about how close they were getting to active situations.

“If somebody suddenly comes up to you, especially from behind, you don’t know if it’s an ordinary citizen filming you or an accomplice or friend of the person you’re arresting who’s going to assault you,” said Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh added that he supports body-worn cameras on police officers.

The bill comes at a time when bystander videos have become powerful tools to highlight instances of police misconduct across the country.

Just over two years ago, a witness filmed former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, although it’s likely the witness was more than 8 feet away.

The original viral incident, the 1991 recording that showed LAPD officers beating Rodney King, would also have been allowed under the law.

But the law has drawn harsh criticism from media groups and civil rights organizations who say it violates the First Amendment. In February, the National Press Photographers Association expressed its opposition to the bill and requested that the state legislature withdraw it from consideration.

Those concerns mean it’s likely there will be legal challenges before the law goes into effect just two months from now.

“I’m not disputing that there is a reasonable restriction on the right to film police, which is you may not physically interfere or obstruct law enforcement but we have existing laws on the books to address that concern,” said David Loy, the legal director at the First Amendment Coalition.

On at least two separate occasions, federal appeals courts have affirmed a person’s right to record police.

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