New laws threaten reckless driving photographers with jail time and fines
Under a new bill signed into law late Thursday by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, paparazzi who drive recklessly could face jail time.
The anti-paparazzi legislation overwhelmingly passed both the state senate and assembly last summer.
Photographers who break traffic laws or interfere with the operation of a celebrity’s car can now receive a maximum $5,000 fine — and one year imprisonment.
"We’re hoping this new law will prevent serious injuries, and even deaths, to both celebrities and innocent bystanders.” Sean Burke, founder and CEO of the Paparazzi Reform Initiative, said in a satement.
The paparazzi legislation was spearheaded by Assemblywoman Karen Bass and has drawn the support of such big name celebrities as Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. Boosters of the act repeatedly invoked the example of Princess Diana, and fittingly a final version of the legislation passed the Assembly on the anniversary of her death.
"Paparazzi photos are very lucrative, but the public shouldn’t be the ones paying the price by having their lives and property put in harm’s way," Bass said in a statement.
Opponents of the act, such as the California Newspaper Publishers Association, charged that the bill was too far-reaching and could violate the "First Amendment" rights of journalists.
It was widely expected that as a former movie star, the governor would be sympathetic to the legislation. Moreover, he and his wife were themselves driven off the road by paparazzi in 1997.