Free press: California law slowing paparazzi survives appeals court test

A California appeals court rejected paparazzi arguments that a law providing for severe penalties for certain high-speed chases violates their free press and speech rights. Media rights groups fear that police will use the law to punish or harass journalists, but the court found no curb on journalists’ rights. “It [the law] is aimed at the special problems caused by the aggressive, purposeful violation of traffic laws while targeting particular individuals for personal gain. Since the legal sanction is triggered by the noncommunicative aspects of the violator’s conduct any incidental effect on speech does not necessarily raise First Amendment concerns,” wrote the judge. (The Hollywood Reporter, September 30, 2015, by Eriq Gardner)

The case grew out of an 80 mph chase of celebrity Justin Bieber on a Los Angeles freeway in 2012. A media lawyer said the law created gratuitous penalties for news gathering. The attorney for Los Angeles said the law only punishes those who commit a crime to take a photograph. (The San Diego Union-Tribune, September 30, 2015, by Anthony McCartney of the Associated Press)