CTA - HB 2918 - March 19, 2015 - Restricting Recording of Law Enforcement
The US Defenders Legislative Strike Force opposes HB2918 authored by the Honorable Representative Villalba of District 114. We oppose this bill for numerous reasons because it unduly restricts the rights of citizens in the public domain. The bill is a prima facie erosion of our first amendment rights provided in the United States Constitution, and, as numerous courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have determined, there is no expectation of privacy within the public domain. Further, law enforcement personnel have no reasonable expectation of privacy in performing their duties in the public domain. However, this bill would make it a crime for a private citizen to video record a law enforcement officer from a distance of less than twenty-five feet in the public domain. Given the recent spate of unprofessional and dubious conduct by numerous police agencies across the nation, this bill misaligns Texas with the prevailing precedent of insuring transparency and accountability of law enforcement.
The author of proposed HB 2918 states the reason for the bill is the safety of law enforcement and makes it a crime a for a private citizen who is legally authorized to carry a concealed weapon and is carrying such a weapon to videotape law enforcement within 100 feet. Yet, this person could legally stand within 5 feet of the law enforcement while not videotaping. How does videotaping make such a person more of a threat? It does not. The obvious real reason is that the bill is an attempt to keep dubious acts of law enforcement personnel from reaching the general public while attempting to circumvent citizens' rights by cloaking itself in 'protection' of law enforcement. Texas Penal Code section 38.15 already makes it a crime for a person to interrupt, disrupt, impede or otherwise interfere with law enforcement personnel in the performance of their duties. This bill is a significant overreach of an already existing law and tramples on the natural rights of the citizenry of the great State of Texas.
Therefore, we would encourage all members of the Texas House and Senate to oppose this bill on the above stated grounds.