The Arizona House Appropriations Committee has voted in favor of a bill that would make it illegal to record police.
The bill passed with a vote of 7-5, with no Democrats voting in favor of it.
State Rep. John Kavanagh’s original draft of the bill made it a crime to film “within 15 feet of an officer interacting with someone unless the officer gave permission.” It was later amended to eight feet, based on the distance approved by the Supreme Court regarding abortion protestors.
“It also allows someone who is in a car stopped by police or is being questioned to tape the encounter and limits the scope of the types of police actions that trigger the law to only those that are possibly dangerous,” the Associated Press reports.
Kavanagh told the AP that the bill balances the rights of everyone involved in a situation.
“I think this fully conforms with constitutionality and weighs officer safety with the citizens’ right, the public’s right, to see law enforcement officers in action,” Kavanagh said.
The bill has faced opposition from media organizations and the National Press Photographers Association.
In an open letter, the organization said that the bill violates the First Amendment.
“We are extremely concerned that this language violates not only the free speech and press clauses of the First Amendment, but also runs counter to the ‘clearly established right’ to photograph and record police officers performing their official duties in a public place,” the letter said. “It is clear from well-established jurisprudence regarding this matter that officers performing their official duties in a public place do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to being recorded and therefore taking enforcement action against someone who ‘fails to comply with a verbal warning of a violation of this section’ is both impermissible and unconstitutional.”
They noted that the bill will allow a police officer to decide which First Amendment-protected activity should be allowed in each situation.
Those who violate the law would be subject to being charged with a petty offense and fined, they would not face jail time unless they refuse to comply when an officer orders them to stop.
Refusing to comply and cease recording after being directed to do so by an officer would be a low-level misdemeanor with a potential 30-day jail sentence.
The House Rules Committee will now review the bill before it heads to the Arizona House floor, according to the AP report.