Legal Reference

HB-2380 makes it a felony to put any information about a cop on the internet

Arizona House Bill 2380 will let the government jail any person for felony charges that puts a cops, judge, or prosecutors photo or personal information on the internet. Hey screw the 1st Amendment its null and void in Arizona!


Bill would let red-faced officials tie media's hands

Feb. 24, 2009 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

If there is anything a good reporter on the police beat knows and understands, it is the risks that undercover officers are exposed to every day of their working lives.

It is a dangerous job they do. We know that full well. Better than nearly anyone who isn't a cop, in fact.

But a bill working its way through the state Legislature that purports to protect undercover officers from having their personal information exposed on the Internet goes much, much further than its supporters claim.

Arizona law currently forbids the media from knowingly publishing on the Internet the home addresses and other personal information of a law officer if publishing that information "poses an imminent and serious threat."

That language about "imminent and serious" threats is meant to distinguish between people like undercover officers - who indisputably need that level of protection - and other eligible persons who might not. For example, a former judge under investigation for corruption who doesn't want his picture published would be protected by this law.

House Bill 2380 eliminates all references to imminent threats. It gives any member of the police, judiciary or prosecution bar the ability to forbid Internet news organizations from publishing their photo (or any "personal information" about them at all) for four years. All they have to do is write a demand letter, and - voila! - they control the media, which could face felony prosecution for failing to abide by their demands.

There is no procedural mechanism by which a person could challenge such a letter.

Publicizing private information about law officers became an issue after Phoenix New Times briefly published a home address of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on its Web site. Sponsors of the HB 2380 insist that the Arpaio-New Times feud, which peaked in late 2007, has nothing to do with the new legislation.

Maybe not. But the bill nevertheless constitutes a heavy-handed prior restraint on the First Amendment ability of all news organizations to produce stories.

It is one thing for news editors to make responsible, commonsense decisions to not publish the home addresses of law officers. Or the photos of undercover officers.

It is quite a different - and, we believe, unconstitutional - matter to force news gatherers to maintain files of officials who simply choose not to have their photos made public for what may be completely arbitrary reasons. Or, for the matter, no decent reason at all. HB 2380 lets the official gauge the "risk," which is a terrible standard for exposing a news editor to felony charges.

HB 2380 is vague, overbroad and reckless legislation. The law already protects undercover officers from imminent danger. These changes simply go too far.