Friday, March 27, 2015

Bill to criminalize filming police pulled down before hearing

State Rep. Jason Villaba's controversial bill criminalizing filming police officers within 25 feet - and forcing concealed handgun licensees with cameras to stay 100 feet back (astonishingly) - was scheduled to be heard yesterday in the House Select Committee on Emerging Law Enforcement Issues. Hours before the meeting, though, he pulled the bill down.

It's hard to blame him. As it turned out, they announced on the House floor, yesterday was Villaba's birthday. Who wants to show up in committee on your birthday to have people hate on you for two hours on a bill that's already DOA? What's the point, really?

There were a few grumpy people who'd come in from out of town to castigate Villaba and his bill. Some left frustrated that they didn't get their say. But they got the outcome they wanted, which is all that matters in this stage of the legislative process.


Robert Langham said...

I hope someone gave him his sign.

Lee said...

Good riddance!

Anonymous said...

No mention of who got him to pull the plug, huh? Not surprising but it was a police group speaking for tens of thousands of police officers that defeated the bill, not the guy's birthday. I know that doesn't fit the agenda here but neither the management nor the rank and file wanted such a bill.

Baron_of_Greymatter said...

Supposedly CLEAT opposed this bill. I'm confused and suspicious. I don't think "more transparency and accountability" is their motivation, but what is?

Anonymous said...

Most cops don't care about being filmed since it's a reality these days. What they don't want are people not involved in the call they're on interfering with the call, shoving a camera in their face while trying to handle a call, or creating a safety problem while filming (standing in the middle of the street, agitating someone who's already upset, etc). Film away, but be smart and safe about it. This bill had bad written all over it. I suspect the open carry movement had a lot to do with its demise as well.

Lee said...

I called and spoke to someone in his office who said the hearing on the bill had been reset to an unknown future date. I guess he did not come to his senses after all?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Lee, that bill is DOA. His staff certainly knows it. I went in the day before to tell them TCJC would be opposing it and they seemed like they were ready to invoke the mercy rule. I kind of felt sorry for them.

Anonymous said...

From the Fox link (are there too many ls?).

Villalba reportedly said police approached him about creating the legislation, which would apply to everyone -- including journalists.

Villalba has since said he'd revise the bill -- changing the buffer zone to 15 feet -- but legal experts as well as law enforcement groups say it is problematic.

Villalba was not available for comment when contacted by

He's in someones pockets and someones in his but as for now due to vague reporting, we have to go with "police".

Anonymous said...


"It's very disturbing that you would have an arbitrary and significant buffer zone that would absolutely apply regardless of the circumstances,"

said William Jacobson, professor and director of the Securities Law Clinic at Cornell University Law School.

*Why Fox reporters would seek out a comment from the director of the Securities Law Clinic at Cornell University Law School is anyone's guess.

Anonymous said...

Since I'm a Texan (born & raised) and neither: 'grumpy' or from out-of-town (as if where one lives actually matters), had it passed, I'd obtained a permit to protest outside his office where I'd be selling: pitchforks, mason jars of tar & bags of feathers from carts shaped like cameras.

Despite it being put back in his ass (by someone) he's in someone's pockets and someone's in his. Too bad we can't tell.

Thanks to someone, this stupid ass bill will forever be tied to one stupid ass State Rep. that thought he'd slide in some sick shit that essentially would have made it impossible to document public servants performing their public duties in public at any distance. As it filled up jails / dockets with: journalists, photographers, tourists, students, celebrities, relatives of law enforcement personnel, border jumpers, (you get the point basically any & all humans with a device). Those with no camera but deemed as witnesses to cop-on-citizen crimes, would have found themselves fighting charges in cases where bad cops pulled throw down cameras in conjunction to felony sprinkles.

*Anyone interested in obtaining surplus 25' 1" poles? I heard that police union rep. Jason Villaba has a good deal at

grussell903 said...

James Soloman Smith, Jr.,
Barbara Smith,
City of Cumming,
a Municipal Corporation,
Earl A.Singletary, et al.,
No. 99-8199
212 F.3d 1332 (Published)
2000 U.S. App. Lexis 11970
May 31, 2000, Decided
May 31, 2000, Filed
James and Barbara Smith filed suit against the City of Cumming, Georgia (the “City”), and its police
chief, Earl Singletary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the City police had harassed the
Smiths, including a claim that Mr. Smith had been prevented from videotaping police actions in
violation of Smith’s First Amendment rights. They appeal from summary judgment granted to the
City and Singletary and from the denial of the Smiths’ motion to amend their complaint so as to
name another City police chief, Ralph “Buck” Jones, n1 as a defendant in the [*1333] place of a
defendant originally identified as “John Doe.” We affirm.
As to the First Amendment claim under Section 1983, we agree with the Smiths that they had a First
Amendment right, subject to reasonable time, manner and place restrictions, to photograph or
videotape police conduct. The First Amendment protects the right to gather information about what
public officials do on public property, and specifically, a right to record matters of public interest.
See Blackston v. Alabama, 30 F.3d 117, 120 (11th Cir.1994) (finding that plaintiffs’ interest in
filming public meetings is protected by the First Amendment); Fordyce v. City of Seattle, 55 F.3d
436, 439 (9th Cir.1995) (recognizing a “First Amendment right to film matters of public interest”);
Iacobucci v. Boulter, 1997 U.S. Dist. Lexis 7010, No. CIV.A. 94-10531 (D.Mass, Mar. 26, 1997)
(unpublished opinion) (finding that an independent reporter has a protected right under the First
Amendment and state law to videotape public meetings); see also United States v. Hastings, 695
F.2d 1278, 1281 (11th Cir.1983) (finding that the press generally has no right to information
superior to that of the general public) (citing Nixon v. Warner Communications, Inc., 435 U.S. 589,
609, 98 S. Ct. 1306, 55 L. Ed. 2d 570 (1978)); Lambert v. Polk County, 723 F. Supp. 128, 133 (S.D.
Iowa 1989) (“It is not just news organizations ... who have First Amendment rights to make and
display videotapes of events....”); Thompson v. City of Clio, 765 F. Supp. 1066, 1070-71
(M.D.Ala.1991) (finding that city council’s ban on member’s attempt to record proceedings regulated
conduct protected by the First Amendment ); cf. Williamson v. Mills, 65 F.3d 155 (11th Cir.1995)
(reversing district court’s grant of qualified immunity to a law enforcement officer who seized the
film of and arrested a participant in a demonstration for photographing undercover officers). Thus,
the district court erred in concluding that there was no First Amendment right.