Arizona legislator plans to keep pushing for law limiting filming of police

Sep 20, 2022, 12:11 PM

(AP Photo, File/Ted S. Warren)...

(AP Photo, File/Ted S. Warren)

(AP Photo, File/Ted S. Warren)

PHOENIX – An Arizona legislator remains determined to see his bill restricting up-close filming of police become reality, despite Republican leadership deciding not to defend it in court.

“I am committed to reintroducing this bill with changes that will align with whatever the judge said was problematic constitutionally,” state Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) told KTAR News 92.3’s Arizona’s Morning News on Tuesday.

A federal judge on Friday blocked the law, which Gov. Doug Ducey signed in July and would have taken effect this week, on First Amendment grounds.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers, Senate President Karen Fann and Attorney General Mark Brnovich, all Republicans, declined to defend the law in court.

“I think a reasonable balance can be struck between First Amendment rights to film the encounter by other people and the right to protect officers from the danger that results from being distracted by having somebody they don’t know suddenly standing right next to them in an encounter,” Kavanagh, a former police officer, said.

The legislation forbids taking video of law enforcement activity closer than 8 feet without permission. A few weeks ago, Kavanagh was confident the law would be able to survive the court challenge filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and several Arizona news organizations.

But U.S. District Judge John J. Tuchi pointed out that Arizona already has laws in place barring interfering with police, and that singling out people for taking videos appears to be unconstitutional on its face.

And Tuchi wrote in his ruling that barring someone from using a phone or news video camera to record — without banning other actions — is a content-based restriction that is illegal.

“I may have to expand it,” said Kavanagh, who is running for state Senate in a safely Republican district.

“It may very well be necessary to create an exception if the police allow news media to be in areas which have been declared a riot and nobody can be at.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona legislator plans to keep pushing for law limiting filming of police