By Ava Schwartzapfel
PHOENIX, AZ – A federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction against a potential law that would have limited the people’s right to record Arizona police officers, preventing the law from being implemented.
This injunction will be in effect until this case is resolved, according to the judge overseeing this case. The law was due to go into effect Sept. 24.
If this new law, entitled HB 2319, would have gone into effect in Arizona, it would then be illegal to record police officers within eight feet of potential criminal activity without the officer’s permission, and, said critics, would have a major impact on the documentation of police activity.
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), the Arizona Broadcasters Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and eight other media organizations filed for an injunction, alleging that it is a violation of the First Amendment.
The NPPA along with more than 20 press freedom groups wrote letters to Arizona legislators and governors warning them of the gravity and unconstitutionality of this law on at least three separate occasions.
When Federal Judge John Tuchi granted the preliminary injunction of this new law the defendants, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, the Maricopa County Sheriff and the Maricopa County Attorney argue they do not plan to further defend the measure or challenge the judge’s ruling.
While defending his ruling, Judge Tuchi acknowledged the law does, in fact, violate a citizen’s First Amendment rights and has potential to cause “irreparable harm.”
General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher of the NPPA shared that they “are very pleased with the Court’s ruling, which should send a strong message to any others considering such an ill-advised law.”
Osterreicher also stated that he hopes the injunction remains intact permanently, for the sake of upholding the public’s constitutional liberties.
The NPPA explained the impact that recording of police activity has on awareness of police brutality, especially within the last decade. If this law were passed, citizens’ First Amendment right of free speech would be targeted and the actions of police officers would become loosely monitored, posing a true risk to the public.
All federal courts that have considered this matter, including the Ninth Circuit court which covers Arizona, have emphasized the importance of the constitutional right to record police officers engaging in their duties in public.