LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities are using a new California law to charge a paparazzo photographer in connection with a high-speed chase of Justin Bieber earlier this month.
The Los Angeles City Attorney's office on Wednesday filed four misdemeanor charges against Paul Raef, 30, including reckless driving with the intent to capture pictures for commercial gain, reckless driving, failure to obey a peace officer and following another vehicle too closely.
Paparazzi pursuit of celebrities has long been identified as a risk in Los Angeles.
"It's Hollywood. There are a huge number of celebrities and there's a lot of money paid for these pictures," said attorney Harland Braun, who has defended cases involving paparazzi and who said he has had to fend off photographers chasing his celebrity clients.
"Unfortunately, innocent people get caught up in these chases," he said. "I think the law is a good thing."
City attorney spokesman Frank Mateljan said the Raef case meets all the criteria spelled out in the law, which was designed to clamp down on photographers' reckless pursuit of celebrities and has not been used before.
"We're very confident in our case," he said
However, a leading First Amendment lawyer said the California law is likely to be challenged vigorously.
Attorney Douglas Mirell said the statute enacted nearly two years ago seeks to punish members of the press by a different standard than the average person.
"A fan doing the same thing, trying to get a glimpse of Bieber or taking a photo for their personal photo album might be engaged in the same egregious conduct. But it would fall outside the statute because they were not doing it for a commercial purpose," Mirell said.
He said members of the press should be prosecuted the same way as others for laws such as reckless driving but should not be singled out as more culpable than others.
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