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Numerous Indiana press entities, including the Indiana Broadcasters Association, have filed a lawsuit against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears, and Marion County Sheriff Kerry Forestal over the legalities of the new Indiana State Law or House Enrolled Act 1186, which is commonly referred to as the “25 Feet Law” which prohibits individuals from standing within 25 feet of a police investigation. The new law went into effect July 1st across the Hoosier State.

HB 1186 was authored by Rep. Wendy McNamara who represents Congressional District 76 which covers Posey and portions of Vanderburgh County while Dubois County’s Steve Bartels, who represents District 74, was one of multiple co-authors on HB 1186.

This law makes it illegal for people to encroach upon police during an active investigation and gives law enforcement a 25-foot buffer. The lawsuit states that if a member of the public is asked to provide that distance and fails to comply they can be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, state the law is hindering journalists and members of the media from reporting on a diversity of events in a variety of locations. The plaintiffs also state the law does not allow exceptions where the 25 feet could be too far for the media to accurately document important activity related to the news.

Examples of this were used in the lawsuit including the fallout coverage from the George Floyd murder over Memorial Weekend 2020: “required close contact with members of law enforcement and often relied on videos or photographs captured within 25 feet of officers performing their official duties.” read the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that HB 1186 or “25 Feet Law” is a clear violation of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, stating this act could authorize, and potentially encourage “arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement” and it fails to provide notice that will enable people to understand what conduct it prohibits. In addition, they also state this act violates the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution which protects “the gathering and dissemination of information of government officials performing their duties in public,” according to rulings in previous cases listed in the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit ultimately believe the act is a “content-based restriction on newsgathering designed to prevent members of the press and public from exercising the right to document policing.” This is based on the fact that the public has a legal right to be in public places to watch and listen to what is going on if they are not interfering with law enforcement officer’s duties.

At this time, no responses have been made publicly nor filed by AG Rokita, Sherrif Forestal, or Prosecutor Mears in this lawsuit.

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