Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has signed into law HB 2319, which bans the public from recording video within 8 feet of police activity.
Any person who knowingly makes a video within 8 feet of police activity could be charged with a class 3 misdemeanor and would likely incur a fine without jail time. Officers are required to warn anyone recording video within 8 feet before arresting them.
An exception is provided if the incident takes place inside private property.
“If the law enforcement activity is occurring in an enclosed structure that is on private property, a person who is authorized to be on the private property may make a video recording of the activity from an adjacent room or area that is less than eight feet away from where the activity is occurring,” the law states.
The exception for private property won’t apply if the police determine that the person filming is interfering with law enforcement activity or that it’s not safe for the person to be in the area and orders the individual to leave.
In addition, the person “who is the subject of police contact” may record the encounter provided the person is not interfering with “lawful police actions.” This exception also applies to people inside a vehicle who have been stopped by the police.
The legislation—set to come into effect in September—defines “law enforcement activity” as officers questioning a suspicious person, conducting an arrest, issuing a summons, or handling an emotionally disturbed or disorderly person who is exhibiting abnormal behavior.
‘Reasonable Law’ to Protect Officers
On Feb. 18, the National Press Photographers Association sent a letter (pdf) to Republican state Reps. Regina Cobb, chair of the state House Appropriations Committee, and John Kavanagh, vice chair of the committee, arguing that the language of the legislation violates the free speech and press clauses of the First Amendment.
Critics also argue that the law will allow police officers to stop any person filming them.
Kavanagh, who sponsored the legislation and served as a police officer for 20 years, said there needs to be a law that protects the police from people who either have “sinister motives” or “poor judgment.”
“I’m pleased that a very reasonable law that promotes the safety of police officers and those involved in police stops and bystanders has been signed into law,” he said on July 8. “It promotes everybody’s safety yet still allows people to reasonably videotape police activity as is their right.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.