Arizona House Republicans on Monday advanced a bill that would make it illegal to record police officers in many situations, The Associated Press reports.
State Rep. John Kavanagh initially proposed making it illegal to record within 15 feet of a police officer interacting with someone unless they have express permission from the cop.
The House Appropriations Committee on Monday advanced a revised bill that reduces the distance to eight feet, a distance Kavanagh said he chose because of the Supreme Court’s decision in a case involving abortion protesters.
“I think this fully conforms with constitutionality and weighs officer safety with the citizens’ right, the public’s right, to see law enforcement officers in action,” Kavanagh said.
The amended bill also allows people to record if they are stopped by police or being questioned and limits the scope of the types of police actions that trigger the law to only those that are potentially dangerous.
First Amendment fears:
Media groups said the bill would run afoul of the First Amendment.
“We are extremely concerned that this language violates not only the free speech and press clauses of the First Amendment, but also runs counter to the ‘clearly established right’ to photograph and record police officers performing their official duties in a public place,” the National Press Photographers Association said in a statement.
Under the original bill, people who recorded the police killing of George Floyd could face charges. The videos were key evidence in the case against the officer that killed Floyd.
Kavanagh’s bill was advanced in a 7-5 vote on the panel with only Republican votes.
The bill is now headed to the Rules Committee for a constitutional review and would then head to a full floor vote.
The bill would make the violation a petty offense, meaning it can result in a fine but no jail time.
Refusing to stop recording at the request of an officer, however, would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail.