RELEASE: Paparazzi Harassment Deterrent Bill Signed by the Governor - Increases Penalties & Allows for Civil Action to Protect Children

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

SACRAMENTO, CA – The Governor signed Senate Bill 606 (De León) today, September 24, 2013, increasing the penalties for the intentional harassment of a child because of their parents’ employment.

The effort to protect children from abusive photogs began shortly after actress Halle Berry met with the Senator in his Los Angeles office early this year.  At that meeting she expressed her profound concerns about the absence of protections for children who are stalked and harassed by paparazzi.  She emphasized the need for a bill to update the laws on the books since she and other parents had no real recourse to protect their children. Ms. Berry was instrumental throughout the legislative process, organizing other parents to support the bill, and travelling to Sacramento twice to meet with legislators and to testify before both the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee. 

“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,” Halle Berry testified. “There is inherent danger to paparazzi’s action in regard to children.”

The measure is narrowly tailored to avoid first amendment concerns, specifying that it is conduct in the course of taking a picture that would be subject to prosecution if it harassed a child—not the act of taking a picture in and of itself.

“Kids shouldn’t be tabloid fodder nor the target of ongoing harassment,” Senator Kevin de León said.  “SB 606 will give children, no matter who their parents are, protection from harassers who go to extremes to turn a buck.”

The measure was supported by a broad coalition that included law enforcement, health advocates, and women and children groups.

SB 606 Amends Penal Code Section 11414 to do the following:

·         Increases the maximum jail time for harassment of a child or ward because of the person's employment from six months in the county jail to a year in the county jail. 

·         Impose a fine not to exceed $10,000 for a first violation.

·         Increase subsequent convictions by applying a fine not to exceed $20,000 for a second violation and a fine not to exceed $30,000 for a third violation. 

·         Allow civil liability in an action for damages in which the parent or legal guardian of the child may seek actual damages, disgorgement of compensation, punitive damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs.

·         Clarify the definition of “harassment” to include conduct in the course of the actual or attempted recording of children’s images and/or voices, without express parental consent, by following their activities or lying in wait.  

·         Clarify that transmitting, publishing or broadcasting a child’s image and/or voice does not constitute a violation.

Undeniably, the children of public figures are often the victims of fanatical attention and harassment. And those charged with enforcing our laws—police officers, judges, attorneys—must confront individuals daily who may harbor vendettas against not only them, but also their families. 

In 1994, Assembly Bill 3592 (Umberg) was passed to address the increased harassment faced by the children of health care facility employees where abortion procedures were performed. The beneficiaries of the law, however, were not solely healthcare workers. Although the AB 3592 has been on the books for nearly 20 years, children continue to fall prey to intentional harassment because the law provided for relatively weak penalties.

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Press conference Video – June 25, 2013: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONVvt5m4Ptc

Assembly Judiciary Committee Video Testimony – August 13, 2013: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyJYkeHcI38

To request high resolution photos for use in media stories email Claire.Conlon @ sen.ca.gov