New Louisiana Law Makes It Illegal To Stand Too Close To Police

A new Louisiana law will make it illegal to stand within 25 feet of a police officer while they are “engaged in law enforcement duties” and after the officer has ordered the person to stay back. Flanked by law enforcement officials, Gov. Jeff Landry signed the legislation into law on May 28.

“This is part of our continued pledge to address public safety in the state,” he said. 

Rep. Bryan Fontenot, a former police officer who authored the bill, says the law will help protect officer‘s safety.”

“I think you see across America that violence on police officers continues to rise, and there was a delicate balance of finding a safe distance for police officers to be able to do their job, both for them and the person they are affecting an arrest on, he told Fox 8 New Orleans.

Former Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a similar bill last year. The former governor said the law would interfere with citizens’ First Amendment rights.

“Each of us has a constitutional right to freely observe public servants as they function in public and within the course and scope of their official duties,” Edwards said last year.

Local lawmakers opposing the bill agree with Edwards’ concerns that the bill could impede witnesses’ ability to observe police activities.

Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, issued a statement  on Tuesday condemning the new legislation.

“The twenty-five-foot buffer legislation fundamentally seeks to curtail Louisianians’ ability to hold police accountable for violence and misconduct. If law enforcement officers were operating in a manner that safeguarded the well-being and constitutional rights of the public, there should be no objection to being observed. Moreover, HB 173 is impractical to enforce consistently and will exacerbate tensions in any situation involving law enforcement. We denounce the passage and signing of this legislation and urge our communities to stay vigilant and safe in response to these developments.”

Anyone who is convicted of “knowingly or intentionally” approaching a police officer after being ordered to “stop approaching or retreat” will face up to a $500 fine, up to 60 days in jail, or both. The law goes into effect on Aug. 1.

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