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 July 24, 2023

Legislation restricting the recording of police in Arizona has been declared illegal by a federal judge

In a verdict that was handed down on Friday, a federal judge ruled that an Arizona statute that restricts how close people can approach to the police while recording them violates the Constitution.

According to the decision handed down last week and reported on by The Hill on July 22, struck down the legislation previously enacted

The law stated that if an officer had asked a citizen or journalist to stop recording while they were engaged in law enforcement activity, the statute would have made it illegal to video police officers within 8 feet of the behavior in question.

In addition, law enforcement officials had the authority to demand that anyone filming on public property cease their activities if they believed the location to be unsafe or if the individual filming was causing a disturbance.

In his order, the United States District Judge John J. Tuchi cited an infringement of a clear right for civilians to video police officers while they are performing their responsibilities.

“The law prohibits or chills a substantial amount of First Amendment protected activity and is unnecessary to prevent interference with police officers given other Arizona laws in effect,” Tuchi wrote.

The previous year, Tuchi put a hold on carrying out the law's provisions. Now, his ruling will always prevent enforcement from happening.

The bill, which was approved with the support of Republicans in the state legislature and signed into law by former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in July 2022, was successfully blocked last year by media organizations, including a coalition of lawyers from the Associated Press and the ACLU, who filed a successful lawsuit to do so.

However, after the case was brought against the legislation in Arizona, prominent law enforcement authorities in the state refused to defend the statute, and legislators also declined to defend the law.

According to The Associated Press, even the person who sponsored the measure, Republican state Senator John Kavanaugh, stated that he was unable to locate an outside entity to support the legislation.

Tuchi granted a preliminary injunction in September of last year, requested by the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and multiple media outlets, who argued that the law violates the First Amendment rights of journalists and the general public.

K.M. Bell, an Arizona ACLU staff attorney, stated in a statement that the law is a "blatant" attempt to prevent people from exercising their constitutional rights, and that the ACLU is pleased that the court is taking action to halt it.

“Today’s ruling is an incredible win for our First Amendment rights and will allow Arizonans to continue to hold police accountable,” Bell said.

“At a time when recording law enforcement interactions is one of the best tools to hold police accountable, we should be working to protect this vital right – not undermine it.”

Written By:
Charlotte Tyler

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