Police Complaints

NM Legislature Seeks to Criminalize Audio Recording

  • Update: The bill was defeated due to intense opposition from numerous citizens and groups, including New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, Society of Professional Journalists, New Mexico Press Association, and Police Complaints of Albuquerque.

State Senator Bill O’Neill has introduced SB 127, Recording of Confidential Communications, which makes it illegal to audio-record conversations without the consent of all parties involved. Laws of this sort have been used in other jurisdictions to stop people from recording interactions with police and other public officials.

Senator O’Neill is completely up-front about his intentions: this bill is to shield politicians from accountability. In a statement to the Santa Fe New Mexican, O’Neill said, “In a political context, how can [we] work in a bi-partisan way if we are worried about being secretly taped? How can we be effective as elected officials?”

A better question is how citizens can trust public officials who are afraid of being held accountable for their words and actions?

Below is an email we have sent to the members of the Senate Public Affairs Committee, which will be hearing this bill today.


Date: Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 10:41 AM
Subject: Oppose SB 127
To: jortizyp@msn.com, oneillsd13@fastmail.us, jacob.candelaria@nmlegis.gov, ron.griggs@nmlegis.gov, daniel.ivey-soto@nmlegis.gov, tim.keller@nmlegis.gov, ggkern@valornet.com, craig.brandt@nmlegis.gov

Senators,

I write to ask you to oppose SB 127, Recording of Confidential Conversations.

Citizens and journalists have a First Amendment right to record any
conversation they are a party to or witness. This is an essential part
of our right to hold public officials accountable. This right must not
be criminalized. If passed, SB 127 will also have a chilling effect
that will discourage the recording of even non-confidential
communications out of fear that the judiciary will misapply standards
of reasonable expectations, as has happened in numerous jurisdictions
with ill-advised laws like SB 127. These laws have led to costly
litigation for the jurisdictions that have attempted to enforce them.

Senator O’Neill, you told the Santa Fe New Mexican, “In a political
context, how can work in a bi-partisan way if we are worried about
being secretly taped?” I find it very disturbing that you consider
secret conversations to be essential to your work as a public servant.
You are wrong. A far more important question is this: how can citizens
trust you if you take away the tools they need to hold you
accountable?

Senator Ortiz y Pino, Senator O’Neill, and Senator Kernan, you are
each conducting public business with private email accounts. To
promote accountability and transparency, please cease this practice
and begin using only state-provided email addresses to ensure that
citizens will be able to inspect your communications as provided by
IPRA.

Sincerely,

Mike Moya
Albuquerque, NM 87104

  • The bill was defeated because so many people called to object to it!