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Filming police officers would be restricted if bill passes

When you watch the news these days, even if you only check for current events on the Internet, you likely see that stories about people and police interactions are common. In many cases, citizens are the ones who are filming these interactions with cellphones or other devices. If one lawmaker in Arizona has it his way, there will soon be restrictions on filming police officers.

Senate Bill 1064, which was introduced by state Senator John Kavanagh, would make it a crime to film police officers from within 20 feet if they are engaged in official duties. Some are saying that the restriction would violate their First Amendment rights, but the senator says the bill would is meant to protect the officer and the person doing the filming.

The senator said that if a person gets closer than 20 feet, the officer might become distracted. The officer might think that the person filming is a threat. If those occur, there is a chance that everyone will be put in danger.

The bill would make filming an officer from within 20 feet a petty offense. If the person who is filming doesn't back away after being warned to do so, the filming would then lead to a misdemeanor charge. Repeat offenders would also be charged with a misdemeanor.

This bill brings the Constitution into the picture because many courts have upheld that citizens have the right to film police officers who are performing official duties. Of course, if the person who is doing the filming is actually in the way while the officer is trying to make an arrest, question a suspect or do something similar, the person might face an arrest even without this new bill passing because he or she could be interfering with law enforcement activity.

Source: ABC News, "Bill Would Make Videotaping Police a Crime If Too Close," Bob Christie, Jan. 07, 2016

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