A bill signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown Tuesday will increase penalties for paparazzi who “harass” celebrities’ children — but opponents say it goes too far.
SB 606 increases fines on people who harass a child because of their parent’s employment to a maximum of $10,000 and increases imprisonment time to a maximum of a year in county jail. Penalties were previously set at a $1,000 fine and six months in county jail.
The bill was opposed by the California Newspaper Publishers Association and California Broadcasters Association who said it infringes on the media’s First Amendment-protected ability to gather news in a public place. Joe Berry of the CBA described the bill as “overly vague,” saying it only expanded laws that already exist and could be used to target news media or tourists who were “at the right place at the wrong time” and took a photo of a celebrity’s child.
The wording of the legislation defines harassment as conduct directed at a child that “seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes” and includes but is not limited to recording images or sound of someone’s child, following a child and “lying in wait.”
“Kids shouldn’t be tabloid fodder nor the target of ongoing harassment,” Sen. Kevin de León, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “SB 606 will give children, no matter who their parents are, protection from harassers who go to extremes to turn a buck.”
Actresses Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner testified in support of the bill before the Assembly Judiciary Committee in Sacramento in August.
“When it comes to my children, or my child, when they are in fear of leaving the house, when they are suffering from nightmares, and feeling that they cannot move in the world in a free and safe way, that is when as a mother, I have to stand up for the rights of my children,” Berry said. “There is inherent danger to paparazzi’s action in regard to children.”
The bill will go into effect Jan. 1.