Federal judge blocks Arizona law limiting filming of police

PHOENIX — A federal judge on Friday blocked enforcement of a new Arizona law restricting how the public and journalists can film police, agreeing with the American Civil Liberties Union and multiple media organizations who argued it violated the First Amendment.

US District Judge John J. Tuchi issued a preliminary injunction that stops the law from being enforced when it is set to take effect on Sept. 24. The quick decision came after Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and the prosecutor and sheriff’s office in Maricopa County told the judge they did not plan to defend the law. They were named as defendants in the lawsuit filed last month.

The law was enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature over unified opposition from Democrats and signed by GOP Gov. Doug Ducey on July 6.

It makes it illegal to knowingly film police officers 8 feet or closer if the officer tells the person to stop. And on private property, an officer who decides someone is interfering or the area is unsafe can order the person to stop filming even if the recording is being made with the owner’s permission.

The penalty is a misdemeanor that would likely incur a fine without jail time.

KM Bell, an ACLU attorney who lobbied against the bill at the Legislature and was in court Friday, said they were pleased the judge acted quickly.

“We are extremely gratified that Arizonans will not have their constitutional rights infringed and their ability to record the police criminalized by this law,” Bell said.

Bystander cellphone videos are largely credited with revealing police misconduct — such as with the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officers — and reshaping the conversation around police transparency. But Republican Arizona lawmakers say the legislation was needed to limit

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