Recordings within 8 feet of police illegal in Arizona under bill signed into law by Ducey

Chelsea Curtis
Arizona Republic
A protester uses a cellphone to record police on Sept. 11, 2020, during weekly demonstrations in downtown Rockford, Illinois, against racism and police brutality.

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People will no longer be allowed to take close-range recordings of Arizona police under a new bill signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday.

House Bill 2319, sponsored by Rep. John Kavanagh, makes it illegal for anyone within 8 feet of law enforcement activity to record police. Violators could face a misdemeanor, but only after being verbally warned and continuing to record anyway. 

Exceptions were made for people at the center of an interaction with police, anyone standing in an enclosed structure on private property where police activity was occurring and occupants of a vehicle stopped by police as long as recording in those instances didn't interfere with police actions.

More:Cellphones have become crucial for accountability in policing, experts say

It goes into effect on Sept. 24.

Kavanagh wrote in an op-ed said HB 2319 was meant to protect officers from potential harm or distraction outside of the incident they were already involved in. He initially introduced the bill with a 15-foot restriction that was later amended down to address concerns it would be unconstitutional. 

But many people, including First Amendment experts, continued to oppose the bill, stating it was unconstitutional at its core, lacked specificity and granted police too much discretion. Various news organizations, including Gannett, the company that owns The Arizona Republic, also signed letters from the National Press Photographers Association opposing the bill. 

Bystander videos of police have become increasingly common and, at times, expose police misconduct. It was instrumental in the case against former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, who was filmed killing George Floyd and ultimately convicted for his murder. 

Reach the reporter at chelsea.curtis@arizonarepublic.com or follow her on Twitter @curtis_chels

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