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Federal Judge Halts Arizona Ban on Filming Police Within 8 Feet

A federal judge has halted the controversial new state law in Arizona that bans folks from photographing and filming cops within 8 feet. The brand new law, which opponents have slammed as a violation of free speech, was to get into influence on September 24th.

The Arizona Republic reports that U.S. District Court Judge John Tuchi took the medial side of these critics on Friday, halting the enforcement of House Bill 2319 with an initial injunction and setting a one-week deadline for just about any state agency ready to fight for regulations to speak up.

The Associated Press reports that Tuchis swift decision was made after Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and the prosecutor and sheriffs office in Maricopa County told the judge they were not likely to defend regulations.

HB 2319 was signed into law back on July 6th by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, also it imposes penalties of a misdemeanor charge or more to four weeks in jail for anybody who captures police activity from within the off-limits distance of 8 feet (2.5 meters) or closer if any office remands that the individual stop. Furthermore, officers can order someone on private property to avoid recording should they determine the action is interfering making use of their duties or that the region is unsafe, even though the individual is filming with the house owners permission.

Critics of regulations include media outlets, journalism groups (like the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)), and civil rights activists.

Setting one-size-fits-all conditions like arbitrary distances of 8 feet for filming police just doesnt work, said @nppalawyer . Its also unclear if someone is breaking regulations if an officer approaches them inside a few feet.

@NPPA https://t.co/HBRWV1udgv

NPPA (@NPPA) July 9, 2022

Photojournalists also have argued that regulations would ensure it is difficult or impossible to cover certain newsworthy events.

Smartphone cameras have grown to be ubiquitous, and bystander photos and videos captured using them have already been credited recently with exposing police misconduct. Free speech advocates argue that such imagery shouldn’t be impeded being that they are a critical element of providing police oversight and transparency. Supporters of HB 2319, however, argue that the limits are essential to thwart those that deliberately use their cameras to hinder cops from undertaking their duties.

The thing is that theres already several laws on the books that, theoretically, could possibly be used to avoid actual interference with police, ACLU legal director Jared Keenan tells the Arizona Republic. Regulations didnt criminalize interfering with regulations officer. It only criminalized activity of recording a police officer within 8 feet.

Republican Representative John Kavanagh, the retired officer who sponsored regulations, says he could be surprised by Brnovich refusing to guard it.

I was let’s assume that the attorney general would do his job because the states attorney and defend a law passed by hawaii, Kavanagh tells AP. We have been looking to get alongside the (House) speaker and the (Senate) president if the Legislature will defend it, but theres also the chance of some outside group possibly upgrading. []

I believe [the law] is unbelievably reasonable. And when whats evoking the problem is my limiting it to just these police characters in every encounters, how ironic that attempting to limit the scope of government reach is unconstitutional. But I assume thats the planet we reside in.

Kavanagh notes that his original bill had recently been changed many times in reaction to the ACLUs concerns, including reducing the length from 16 feet to 8 feet, limiting the scope of police activities it pertains to (like the questioning of suspects and encounters involving mental/behavioral medical issues) and exempting certain folks from the ban (like the subjects of police interactions and the ones in stopped cars).

Matthew Kelley, the DC-based lawyer who’s representing the media plaintiffs in the ongoing legal battle, celebrated the judges decision as a win for First Amendment protections.

There wasnt anything in regulations that said the individual recording needs to be interfering with police or harassing officers or elsewhere doing a thing that would develop a danger or perhaps a distraction, Kelley tells AP. All it prohibited was simply standing there, creating a video recording. And since thats activity thats protected by the initial Amendment, this law was on its face unconstitutional.

If no party steps forward to guard regulations, the preliminary injunction seems poised to become permanent one, which legal battle in Arizona would become among numerous cases recently where the courts are determined to permit bystanders to record police without restriction.


Image credits: Header photos from Depositphotos

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