An Arizona law that interferes with people’s ability to record police interactions has been put on hold. According to the Associated Press, a federal judge issued a preliminary injection preventing the law from taking effect as scheduled on Sept. 24.
The American Civil Liberties Union and several media organizations challenged the law on first amendment grounds. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2319 into law in July 2022, despite broad opposition.
Introduced earlier this year by a former police officer, HB 2319 prohibits individuals from recording police within eight feet. While the law contained a few exceptions, the ACLU of Arizona and media organizations maintained it was unconstitutional. One exception permitted occupants of a vehicle to record police during a stop so long as it didn’t interfere
Aside from limiting bystanders’ ability to record police interactions, leaving it up to the police to determine what does and doesn’t interfere poses serious issues and could lead to situations with police falsely claiming recordings are an interference.
The ACLU of Arizona published a blog entry on its website explaining the issues with HB 2319 and why legal action was necessary. The entry also noted the great utility of bystander videos in bringing police misconduct to light.
“One of the best tools available to hold law enforcement accountable is a video camera —in other words, the right to record,” read an ACLU of Arizona blog. “The First Amendment protects our right to record police engaged in official duties. Every federal circuit to consider the right to record — seven out of 13 circuits — has held that this right clearly exists, and most have specified that it applies to law enforcement.”
As the ACLU of Arizona blog pointed out, video footage has been instrumental in spotlighting police killing civilians.
“That footage has been critical to pushing back on unchecked police brutality. But now, this essential right is under attack,” the blog entry continued. “Unsurprisingly, members of law enforcement commonly attempt to interfere with recordings of their conduct or harass those who have recorded them in violation of the constitutional right to record. The Arizona law, too, has been framed as ‘preventing violence and misunderstandings, preventing the destruction of evidence and preventing police officers from harm,’ but it makes shockingly little effort to hide its true purpose — preventing people from exercising their constitutional right to record.”
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