Utah has a law making it illegal to “interfere with agricultural operations,” or, as it is colloquially known, the “ag-gag” law. Utah Code 76-6-112 makes it illegal to film or record an image of a meat processing facility, or to enter a facility under false pretenses. The law has been controversial since the Utah legislature passed in in 2012. At least one person has argued that the law is a violation of the First Amendment. However, only a few people have ever been charged so a judge has yet to rule on the constitutionality of the law.
The law is unique in that it protects a specific industry. Utah does not have similar protections for other workplaces. Regardless of whether or not it is good policy, the law is most likely to affect people who intend to expose the practices of meat production. Someone who breaks the law could potentially research the laws before hand.
Anyone considering leaving a recording device within an agriculture operation should know that conviction is punished as a class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail with a maximum fine of $2,500. That provision of the law does not extend to public property. If a person were somehow able to film the facility from a neutral vantage point, this law would not be implicated.
Alternatively, a person could be convicted of a class B misdemeanor under three different provisions of the law. First, a person could be convicted for entering an agricultural facility under false pretenses. “False pretenses” could be any sort of lie designed to gain access to a facility. Second, a person could be convicted for obtaining a job and filming the facility. Finally, a person could be convicted for committing a criminal trespass and then recording the facility. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail with a maximum fine of $1,000.
Anyone accused of interfering with an agricultural operation should contact a lawyer immediately. After all, there is little point in engaging in some civil disobedience and then unwittingly neglecting the best legal arguments. As mentioned, there may be constitutional and other legal arguments in favor of dismissal.