Arizona lawmaker confident police video law will withstand legal challenge
PHOENIX – The Republican lawmaker behind Arizona’s new restriction on how close citizens can get to police while taking video is confident the law will withstand a legal challenge.
The American Civil Liberties Union and several Arizona news organizations filed a lawsuit this week challenging the constitutionality of the law, which makes it a Class 3 misdemeanor to take video of law enforcement activity from closer than 8 feet without permission.
State Rep. John Kavanagh, a former police officer, welcomes the lawsuit.
“I would like nothing more than to have this controversy about balancing police safety with citizens’ rights to film resolved at the highest level of the U.S. Supreme Court so we can have a nationwide standard that other states can legally comply with,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.
Kavanagh said he crafted the bill to make sure it would withstand legal challenges.
“I have made monumental concessions to make it constitutional and I have no problem with this going to the courts,” he said.
“This involves the First Amendment, the Bill of Rights. That is very important and meaningful to me. And I do not want to see it violated.”
He also said that with modern technology, cameras can pick up any details that need to be recorded from 8 feet away.
Kavanagh said he originally to set the limit at 15 feet but reduced it after researching previous court decisions.
“The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case involving protesters near abortion clinics, ruled that the First Amendment was not violated if the protesters were kept back 8 feet,” he said.
“So, the Supreme Court said 8 feet doesn’t violate the U.S. Constitution. I think that they’re a good source.”
The law doesn’t apply to somebody who is involved in a police encounter or passengers in a vehicle when an officer is engaging the driver.
Reporters and photographers say the law will make it nearly impossible to do their job, especially at massive events like protests.
“This law is a violation of a vital constitutional right and will severely thwart attempts to build police accountability. It must be struck down before it creates irreparable community harm,” the ACLU wrote in a statement on its blog.
In similar cases, six of the nation’s dozen U.S. appeals courts have ruled on the side of allowing people to record police without restriction.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Luke Forstner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.