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A.C.L.U. Launches Lawsuit Over Arizona Law Prohibiting Public from Filming Police Officers

— August 25, 2022

The lawsuit alleges that Arizona’s controversial law violates residents’ rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a law over an Arizona law that prohibits the public from recording video within eight feet of an active-duty police officer.

According to The Associated Press, the lawsuit was filed by the A.C.L.U. of Arizona in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.

“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 group wrote in an online statement.

In their lawsuit, the A.C.L.U. claims that the Arizona law poses “blatant constitutional issues” and is overly ambiguous.

“We have a right to hold police officers accountable by recording their activities in public,” said Esha Bhandari, the deputy director of the A.C.L.U.’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “Arizona’s law will prevent people from engaging in recording that doesn’t interfere with police activity, and it will suppress the reporting and advocacy that results from video evidence of police misconduct. The First Amendment does not permit that outcome.”

A police officer wearing a body camera. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Ryan Johnson. (CCA-BY-2.0).

The organization is seeking an injunction preventing the law from taking effect.

The Associated Press reports that bystander videos have been credited with holding police officers accountable for misconduct.

However, some Arizona lawmakers believe that legislation is needed to prevent members of the public from impending law enforcement.

The controversial law, signed into effect by Gov. Doug Ducey in July, makes it illegal to “knowingly film police officers 8 feet or closer” without the officer’s explicit permission.

The law also allows officers to order bystanders to stop filming, even if the police officer is on private property.

“By allowing police officers to arrest and punish people for simply recording video of their actions, the law creates an unprecedented and facially unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech about an important governmental function,” the lawsuit states.

The A.C.LU. says that it was compelled to take action “to prevent Arizona from trampling on [Plaintiffs’] rights to report news, document the activities of public servants, and hold police accountable for their actions toward the people they are sworn to protect and serve.”

The lawsuit, notes The Associated Press, names Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Maricopa County Attorney General Rachel Mitchell, and Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone as defendants.

CNN reports that Penzone has protested his inclusion in the lawsuit.

“To include me in a lawsuit for which I had no involvement in crafting, vetting or passing is an example of targeting a law enforcement leader for the sake of sensationalization,” Penzone told CNN. “There are 15 Sheriff’s and 50-100 police chiefs in Arizona. The ACLU listed my name only as a tactic to harass and target me.”


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