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September 20, 2022

From a Distance: Arizona Bans Filming of Law Enforcement At Close Range 

On Wednesday, July 6, 2022, a bill was signed into law that prohibits people from filming law enforcement at distances closer than eight feet. This law, sponsored by State Representative John Kavanagh and signed by Governor Doug Ducey, will go into effect in September. 

The new law states, “It is unlawful for a person to knowingly make a video recording of law enforcement activity if the person making the video recording is within eight feet of where the person knows or reasonably should know that law enforcement activity is occurring.”

The law further states that on private property, there is an exemption. If the person doing the recording has permission to be there, they can record the police. So long as they are not interfering with law enforcement. The moment law enforcement feels that the person recording is hindering them, they can be charged under this new law. 

Under this new law, it does mention that the person being questioned by police and therefore is a subject of police activity may record law enforcement. As long as that person is not physically under arrest, is being searched, or is taking part in field sobriety tests. It also allows during traffic stops for occupants of the vehicle, including the driver, to record the police. 

It is clear to supporters of the law that it is designed with officer safety in mind. It is not uncommon for people to follow law enforcement within a couple of feet, recording them. Often the recordings come with a barrage of insults, questions, and attempts to hinder law enforcement from doing their job. 

Naturally, this law is being touted by the media to suggest that it is unconstitutional. However, they are leaving out officer safety and obstruction of justice. Supporters of the law do not feel this law is going to be used to lock people up for simply filming police officers. The law will be used to remove people hindering law enforcement from conducting an investigation, not to trample people’s rights. 

This law will help protect officers from people that “either have very poor judgment or sinister motives,” said Kavanagh. He went on to say: “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,”

“It promotes everybody’s safety yet still allows people to videotape police activity as is their right reasonably.”

Since the offense is charged as a misdemeanor, it will likely be a fine rather than a jailable offense. The media, of course, will attempt to blow this out of proportion and do what they do best. People will be outraged, and the first time this gets charged out, expect to see it go to higher courts.