criminal law

Arizona Senator Proposes Bill to Make Recording Police a Crime

A new Arizona bill introduced by Senator John Kavanagh will make recording a police officer a criminal act if passed.

The bill, SB 1054, which Senator Kavanagh says he proposed as a measure to ensure the safety of police officers and those videotaping, would prohibit video recording police officers from a distance of 20 feet or less.

Members of the American Civil Liberties Union have attacked the bill as unconstitutional, citing that it violates the First Amendment. Professor Paul Bender, the dean emeritus of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University was quoted in an article in the Guardian as saying the bill was “on the face of it unconstitutional” and problematic.

The bill supports a person’s right to videotape a police officer outside 20 feet and within that distance on private property, or in their own residence if the person records from an adjacent room.

However, the bill would also give police officers the right to end any video recording, regardless of distance, if the police officer deemed the recording an interference in law enforcement activity.

“The language in bill SB 1054 that’s most concerning for law analysts is the section that gives law enforcement officers the right to supercede the previous sections securing a citizen’s right to film law enforcement from more than 20 feet,” said Chris Corso of Corso Law Group.

“This bill would allow any police officer the right to stop citizens from recording arrests, no matter the circumstances,” said Corso, “and would subject those who refused to stop recording to legal prosecution.”

Under protection of the First Amendment, Americans have the right to film police officers while they are on duty. This right has been pivotal in recent, high-profile court cases that have been successfully defended based on video evidence taken at the scene and involving police officer misconduct.  

One such high-profile case involved the shooting of Walter Scott, a South Carolina man who was shot in the back by Officer Michael Slager as he ran away. Video coverage captured by a witness was used to strengthen the case.

In America, the right to film police has already been established and includes specific regulations. For example, although the right to photograph police is protected by the First Amendment, officials do have the power to stop anyone from filming who they believe is legitimately interfering with law enforcement, according to the ACLU.

“Photography is a form of power, and people are loath to give up power, including police officers,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU, said in The Atlantic. “It’s a power struggle where the citizen is protected by the law but, because it is a power struggle, sometimes that’s not enough.”

Although police may tell people to stop recording and ask that they turn over their footage, a guide for photographers by the ACLU, Know Your Rights, says it’s illegal for police to confiscate photos or videos without a warrant.

The First Amendment protects a citizen’s right to take pictures of anything in plain view in public space, including police officers.

Could Implied Consent Be a Thing of the Past?

If you’re pulled over, are you required to participate in sobriety testing like Breathalyzer and blood tests? For anyone with a driver’s license, the answer is yes.

Implied consent laws, which are in force in all 50 states, require anyone suspected of drunk driving to participate in tests that determine impairment, such as breath, blood and urine tests.

Drivers automatically give consent to this type of testing when applying for a license.

In general, the risk of getting charged with a DUI is magnified with the help of implied consent laws, as refusing tests automatically leads to license suspension and other penalties.

Several cases are challenging implied consent, some making it to the Supreme Court, which could lead to the elimination of these laws altogether.

Implied Consent

If a driver is pulled over on suspicion of DUI, they may be asked to perform a series of tests to determine impairment. These tests fall into two categories, field sobriety tests and chemical tests.

Field sobriety tests, such as walking in a straight line, reciting the ABCs, standing on one leg and more, are not required. Chemical tests such as Breathalyzer, blood alcohol content (BAC) and urine tests are required, and refusing any of these leads to automatic license suspension and other penalties depending on each state’s specific laws. 

Gaede v. Illinois

The trouble with implied consent was brought to light by Gaede v. Illinois, which has made its way to the Supreme Court and focusses on the Fourth Amendment.

In 2012, Christopher Gaede fled the scene of an accident after hitting a parked car with his motorcycle. He was intercepted by police and asked to perform several field sobriety tests, all of which he failed.

When asked to perform a breath test, Gaede refused. In addition to a 12-month license suspension, his refusal was also used against him at trial, which then resulted in a guilty verdict.

On appeal, Gaede’s attorneys argued that police should have to obtain a warrant in order to collect evidence, in this case biological evidence, instead of relying on the implied consent law.

Essentially, they argued that using implied consent instead of getting a warrant violates constitutional rights against unlawful searches and seizures.

The Supreme Court announced it will weigh a series of implied consent cases from Michigan, North Dakota and 11 other states to determine whether it’s illegal for police to require BAC tests without securing a warrant.

Depending on what the Supreme Court decides later this year, implied consent laws could be negated around the nation, allowing drivers to refuse a BAC or breath test without that decision having major consequences later on.

New Laws to Look Out for in 2016

Can’t pay your ticket? This year, Arizona is making it legal to work off what you owe with community service. This, and several other new laws to make note of are going into effect in 2016 in Arizona and around the country.

New Laws in Arizona 

Pay Your Ticket with Community Service

Senate Bill 1117 permits anyone who is unable or unwilling to pay the cost of court fees, fines, and tickets to work off what is owed by participating in community service. Each hour of community service pays for $10 of debt.

Expanded Protection Against Identity Theft

Arizona is one of the worst states for identity theft crimes, but expansions to existing laws are in place this year to help protect citizens by allowing people to place a credit freeze on themselves so that credit reports can’t be released without permission from the individual. This law is designed to prevent thieves from applying for credit cards or loans using someone else’s identity and credit history.

Vexatious Litigants Law Update

Judges can no longer waive court fees and costs for any person designated a “vexatious litigant,” or someone representing themselves, who files repeated court actions largely to harass others, unreasonably delay court proceedings or bring actions without “substantial justification.”

The only exception would be in family court cases involving divorce and child support.

Previously, judges could waive fees for those unable to afford the cost of filing a lawsuit so that financial standing couldn’t prevent someone from going to court.

New Laws Around the Nation

Minimum Wage Increases

Several states are increasing the minimum wage this year, including those known for a high cost of living like California, Hawaii and New York.

Fast-food workers in New York will receive the initial increase in pay now for an overall plan to bump minimum wage up to $15 by 2018 in New York City and by 2021 in the rest of the state.

Other states increasing minimum wage in 2016 include Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.

Gun Laws in Texas

Texas started off the New Year with a bang as new open carry laws went into effect on Jan. 1. Now, anyone who previously had a concealed carry license can openly carry a holstered handgun in designated areas.

Another new gun law coming to Texas in August will allow the carry of concealed handguns on university campuses.

Vaccinations Required in California

As a result of last year’s measles outbreak, which left 147 people in the U.S. sick, California will no longer accept personal and religious belief exemption waivers, requiring vaccinations for all children at public and private schools.