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Federal judge blocks Arizona law that restricts filming of police officers

Federal judge blocks Arizona law that restricts filming of police officers

Federal judge blocks Arizona law that restricts filming of police officers

Federal judge blocks Arizona law that filming of police officers

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  • U.S. District Judge John Tuchi issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the law from going into effect.
  • It is illegal to film police officers from 8 feet or closer if the officer orders the person to stop.
  • The penalty is a misdemeanour, which carries a fine but no jail time.
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A federal judge ruled on Friday that a new Arizona law restricting how the public and journalists can film police officers violated the First Amendment, agreeing with the American Civil Liberties Union and multiple media organizations that it did.

U.S. District Judge John J. Tuchi issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the law from going into effect on September 24. The quick decision came after Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and the Maricopa County prosecutor and sheriff’s office informed the judge that they would not be defending the law. In the lawsuit filed last month, they were named as defendants.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the bill despite Democratic opposition, and GOP Gov. Doug Ducey signed it on July 6.

It is illegal to film police officers from 8 feet or closer if the officer orders the person to stop. On private property, an officer who determines that someone is interfering or that the area is unsafe may order the person filming to stop, even if the recording was made with the owner’s permission.

The penalty is a misdemeanour, which carries a fine but no jail time.

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KM Bell, an ACLU attorney who lobbied against the bill in the legislature and was present in court on Friday, said they were pleased with the judge’s quick action.

“We are extremely gratified that Arizonans will not have their constitutional rights infringed and their ability to record the police criminalized by this law,” Bell said.

Bystander cellphone videos are widely credited with exposing police misconduct, such as the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis officers in 2020, and reshaping the conversation about police transparency. However, Republican Arizona lawmakers say the legislation is necessary to limit people with cameras who intentionally obstruct officers.

Tuchi has given the Legislature one week to decide whether to defend the law. The ACLU and media organisations are requesting a permanent injunction.

Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, a retired police officer who sponsored the legislation, said he was “surprised” when Brnovich did not move to defend it.

“I was assuming that the attorney general would do his job as the state’s attorney and defend a law passed by the state,” Kavanagh said. “We are trying to get together with the (House) speaker and the (Senate) president and see if the Legislature will defend it, but there’s also the possibility of some outside group possibly stepping up.”

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