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New La. law creates 25-foot ‘buffer zone’ to keep bystanders back from arrests in progress

The law requires officers to issue a verbal warning for individuals to step back; failure to comply could result in a fine or jail time

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FILE - Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry addresses members of the House and Senate on opening day of a legislative special session, Feb. 19, 2024, in the House Chamber at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge, La. (Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP, File)

Hilary Scheinuk/AP

By Joanna Putman

BATON ROUGE, La. — A new law in Louisiana now allows people to be sentenced to jail time if they approach within 25 feet of a working law enforcement officer after being asked or ordered to back up, WVUE reported.

The bill was signed into law on May 28by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry. The law requires officers to issue a verbal warning for individuals to step back, with provisions for situations where a person may not clearly hear the officer’s command, according to the report.

“We think this is a good place to fall. This is a bill that’s being enacted all across America,” said Rep. Bryan Fontenot (R-Thibodaux), a former police officer and deputy who authored the bill. “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 effecting an arrest on.”

A similar bill was previously vetoed by former Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, according to the report. Critics argue that the new law could diminish police accountability by hindering the public’s ability to record police interactions.

Violating the new misdemeanor law could result in up to 60 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500, according to the report.