This State Is Making It Illegal to Approach Cops in Some Circumstances

Louisiana law takes effect August 1
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 30, 2024 12:00 AM CDT
Louisiana Is Making It Illegal to Approach Cops in Some Circumstances
Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry addresses members of the House and Senate on opening day of a legislative special session, Feb. 19, 2024, in the House Chamber at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge, La.   (Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP, File)

Critics of a new Louisiana law, which makes it a crime to approach within 25 feet of a police officer under certain circumstances, fear that the measure could hinder the public's ability to film officers—a tool that has increasingly been used to hold police accountable. Under the law, anyone who is convicted of "knowingly or intentionally" approaching an officer, who is "lawfully engaged in the execution of his official duties," and after being ordered to "stop approaching or retreat" faces up to a $500 fine, up to 60 days in jail or both. The law was signed by Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican, Tuesday and goes into effect Aug. 1, the AP reports.

While the legislation's language does not specifically mention filming, critics say that by default it would limit how close a person can be to observe police. Opponents have also gone further to question the law's constitutionality, saying it could impede on a person's First Amendment rights. Proponents argue the new law will create a buffer-zone to help ensure the safety of officers and that bystanders would still be close enough to film police interactions. Language in the measure appears to put in some safety nets, stating that an acceptable "defense to this crime" includes establishing that the "lawful order or command was neither received nor understood by the defendant."

An attempt to establish a specific range at which onlookers can record officers actively engaged in law enforcement duties has occurred elsewhere. In 2022, lawmakers in Arizona passed a law that would have made it illegal to knowingly film police officers 8 feet or closer if the officer tells the person to stop. A coalition of media groups and the American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued to block Arizona's law, with a federal judge ruling it unconstitutional, citing infringement against a clearly established right to film police doing their jobs. In similar cases, half of the US appeals courts across the nation have ruled on the side of allowing people to record police without restriction.

(More Louisiana stories.)

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