The legislation makes it a crime to be within 25 feet of a law enforcement officer if they have asked a person to stop approaching or to retreat.


Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry this week signed legislation to criminalize approaching a police officer who is "lawfully engaged in the execution of his official duties," a move that critics say will make it harder for people to hold police accountable for misconduct.

House Bill 173 makes it a crime to be within 25 feet of a law enforcement officer if they have asked a person to stop approaching or to retreat. Those who break the law could face up to $500 in fines, up to 60 days in prison or both.

The bill's passage is a win for Republicans, who cite the need to protect police. "This is a bill that's enacting all across America that gives our police officers a peace of mind and a safe distance to do their job," Republican state Rep. Bryan Fontenot, who crafted the legislation, said at a signing ceremony Tuesday.

Last year, then-Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed a nearly identical bill on his desk, saying it had the potential “to chill exercise of First Amendment rights.”

Although the Louisiana law does not reference filming police, it inadvertently restricts proper documentation of interactions between officers and civilians. Such footage has played a central role in monumental police brutality cases like George Floyd's murder in 2020 and even as far back as Rodney King's beating in 1991.

Alanah Odoms, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, said in a statement that the legislation “fundamentally seeks to curtail Louisianians’ ability to hold police accountable for violence and misconduct” and will exacerbate tensions in situations involving police.

Similar laws creating "buffer zones" around police officers have faced legal challenges. A law in Arizona that criminalized filming police at a certain distance if told to stop was struck down last year by a federal judge who ruled that it violated First Amendment rights. In Indiana, a federal judge in January upheld legislation creating a 25-foot buffer area around police activity, though another legal challenge from media organizations is pending. (An Indiana woman was arrested in October after she filmed a police officer within 25 feet, though prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against her under the law.)

Louisiana's new law goes into effect Aug. 1.