The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Justin Bieber Chase: The Anti-Paparazzi Law

Last week, we somewhat-reluctantly reported on Justin Bieber's speeding incident. He was pulled over and ticketed for speeding at 80 mph. He caught a break, however, as a L.A. City Councilman and former LAPD officer was calling for reckless driving charges.

He told the officers that he was being chased by paparazzi, which didn't help him escape the ticket. Shortly thereafter, he called 9-1-1 again to report that the paparazzi had resumed pursuit. The police pulled both parties over and gave them warnings.

The CHP also promised to investigate the paparazzi for creating a dangerous situation. That's where this ordinary legal tale turns into something actually interesting.

According to TMZ, the CHP report calls for the head paparazzo to be charged under the "Anti-Paparazzi" statute passed in 2010. Since it's passing, no one has yet been charged. This would be a novel case for a semi-novel law.

The law, California Vehicle Code Section 40008, prohibits the creation of a dangerous situation for the sake of obtaining a photo for commercial reasons. In plain English, that means the photogs can't chase down Bieber for a snapshot while putting innocent drivers in harm's way.

The law specifies three alternative traffic laws that can be broken to trigger the law, including reckless driving, following too closely, and interfering with a driver. The CHP report recommends charging reckless driving in addition to the Anti-Paparazzi law, so that probably would be the underlying offense.

The maximum punishment for the anti-paparazzi law is up to one year in jail, plus a fine of up to $5,000. Reckless driving carries a penalty of up to 90 days. A photog won't be punished for both if charged and convicted, however.

The language of the law dictates that the more severe of either the punishment for the underlying traffic offense, or the Anti-Paparazzi law, but not both, be enforced. That means his punishment would be capped at one year.

Mr. Bieber, however, seems to be in a no win situation. He can't run away from 'em without getting a ticket and he certainly can't slap 'em. I'd suggest hiding out in a foreign country, but Bieber Fever has already hit Europe and Africa.

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