A TikTok user recently posted a video expressing outrage that Arizona recently passed a law that would make it illegal for citizens to record police within a distance of 8 feet. People posting comments on the video expressed shock such a law would be passed.
VERIFY was tagged in the video, with a viewer asking us if it was true.
Did Arizona make it illegal to film police within 8 feet?
Yes, Arizona did make it illegal for civilians to record a police officer within 8 feet.
WHAT WE FOUND
On July 6, Gov. Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2319 into law, which goes into effect in September. The bill makes it unlawful for a civilian to knowingly film within 8 feet of law enforcement activity, after receiving a verbal warning from police.
Prior to this law being signed, people could film police as long as they weren't interfering in police work or attempting to obstruct justice. This law provides the boundaries to filming and now there are criminal consequences for not complying.
A violation of the law is a class three misdemeanor. In Arizona, a class three misdemeanor carries a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
There are some caveats where it’s not illegal, the law says.
- If law enforcement activity is occurring in an enclosed structure on private property, like a house, a person who is authorized to be on the property may make a video recording from an adjacent room or area that is less than 8 feet away. This is only if law enforcement determines the person is not interfering. An officer also has the right to determine if the area is not safe and can order the person to leave.
- A person who is the subject of police contact may record the encounter if the person is not interfering with lawful police actions, including searching, handcuffing or administering a field sobriety test.
- The subject of a police stop may record if none of the occupants of a car are interfering with the police.
Arizona Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) sponsored the legislation, and in March penned an opinion piece published in The Arizona Republic that he wasn’t “saying you can't video police. Just stay back a few feet in some situations.” The piece was published before the bill became law.
“House Bill 2319 simply requires persons filming police officers who are engaged in violent or potentially violent encounters with citizens to keep back a safe distance of 8 feet, with some exceptions,” Kavanagh wrote.
Kavanagh argued 8 feet won’t harm the video’s integrity.
“Today’s sophisticated cellphone cameras can pick up minute details from farther away, even without using the zoom feature. Besides, a video taken from 8 feet away probably takes in the entire scene, providing more information and greater context. It is probably a better video from an evidentiary perspective,” he wrote.
The bill, prior to becoming law, prompted criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona and news organizations nationwide, including TEGNA, the parent company of VERIFY.
The organizations were concerned the bill, now a law, would violate free speech and press clauses granted under the First Amendment. It also violates constitutional rights to photograph and record police officers performing their official duties in a public place, critics argued.
So, we can VERIFY that yes, it is illegal in Arizona to film law enforcement in action within 8 feet. The ACLU has a list on their website of what individuals should know if stopped by police and another page on filming and photographing police.