Paparazzi face jail for chasing celebrities under new law signed by Schwarzenegger
Despite strong opposition from news organizations, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill cracking down on photographers who drive recklessly in pursuit of celebrities or block sidewalks and create the sense of "false imprisonment" for Hollywood glitterati.
The paparazzi bill, AB 2479 by Assemblywoman Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), imposes stiff penalties — including possible jail time — for photographers who cross the line. Reckless driving and trespassing already are illegal, so singling out photographers for special prosecution is an affront to the 1st Amendment, argued the California Newspaper Publishers Assn.
Bass helped craft the bill with help from Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich. She told The Times in August that Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon had discussed their concerns to her about the aggressive actions of the paparazzi.
"Some artists fear there is going to be a terrible accident," Bass said at the time. "This is certainly no attempt to regulate the press."
But the California Newspaper Publishers Assn. argues that laws on the books already allow the prosecution of people who recklessly flout traffic and trespassing laws. Heaping new penalties on violators just because they are seeking photographs, the organization says, is an affront to the 1st Amendment.
Backers praised the governor's decision to sign the bill.
“This new law is specifically targeted to increase public safety,” said Sean Burke, founder and CEO of the Paparazzi Reform Initiative. “In addition to the sheer invasiveness of broadcasting a person’s personal life to hundreds of millions of people worldwide without his or her consent, paparazzi tactics cause severe disruption to the general public."
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento and Andrew Blankstein in Los Angeles
Photo: Paparazzi on the prowl in Malibu in 2008. Credit: Los Angeles Times