California lawmakers have approved a bill that will create harsher penalties for paparazzi who berate celebrities or chase them down in reckless driving to snap their photo.
The bill is now headed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his signature.
If it is signed into law, photographers who drive reckelessly to snap a shot of the latest tabloid darling can face a $5,000 fine or up to a year in jail.
AB 2479, authored by Assemblywoman Karen Bass, would also amend the state’s civil anti-paparazzi law to include “false imprisonment that is committed in order to obtain a visual image or other impression of the person.” It targets photographers who commit a “constructive invasion of privacy” with the intent of photographing a person if the invasion occurs in a manner “that is offensive to a reasonable person.” That portion was designed to stop instances where celebrities have no way out when a throng of photographers circles their vehicles — or just themselves walking down the street.
Although it passed the State Assembly and State Senate by overwhelming margins, the bill was opposed by journalism orgs, including the California Newspaper Publishers Assn. “If an employee of a member newspaper is charged and convicted of reckless driving, they should be punished the same as any other member of society, the org says. “To subject a person to extreme liability solely because he or she intends to capture an image of another person, though, would put journalists in a class by themselves.”