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ACLU Challenges Indiana Law Curbing Public Access To Police

An Indiana law makes it a crime for to approach within 25 feet of a police officer if ordered to back away. This week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit challenging the law, arguing that it infringes on individuals' First Amendment right to record and observe police. In March, the state legislature made it a misdemeanor to "knowingly or intentionally [approach] within twenty-five (25) feet of a law enforcement officer lawfully engaged in the execution of the law enforcement officer's duties after the law enforcement officer has ordered the person to stop." Rep. Wendy McNamara said, "Our public safety officers have important work to do, and their jobs often involve dangerous and unpredictable situations,. The goal of this bill is to give officers another tool to help control a scene to maintain their safety and the public's safety."


The ACLU says the law allows police to prevent journalists and other bystanders from recording their activity—or even watching them in action, reports Reason. Plaintiff Donald Nicodemus says he was prevented from filming police during an investigation of a shooting. The suit also alleges police failed to enforce the law properly, telling Nicodemus to back up over 50 feet. "There was no basis for forcing Mr. Nicodemus to move even further back from the area—fully across the street—where police [were] conducting their activities," the lawsuit says. "The unbridled discretion given to law enforcement officers by [the law] allows for and invites content and viewpoint-based discrimination." An Arizona law that would have banned filming within 8 feet of a police officer was blocked by a federal judge last year. Judge John Tuchi said, "the Court fails to see how the presence of a person recording a video near an officer interferes with the officer's activities."

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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