A Los Angeles Appeal Court on Wednesday upheld criminal charges against celebrity photographer, Paul Raef, who chased pop star Justin Bieber at high speed on a Los Angeles freeway in 2012, saying the charges did not violate freedom of the press.
Raef became the first person to be prosecuted under California’s anti-paparazzi law, which was drafted in 2010 to crack down on aggressive, reckless behavior by people taking photos commercially.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge dropped the charges against Raef in 2012, saying the statute under which he was accused was overly broad and could increase reckless driving penalties in unintended cases.
That decision was however reversed in 2014, prompting Raef to appeal against the charges again on the basis that the anti-paparazzi law violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by constricting the freedom of news gatherers.
In delivering its verdict on the appeal, the 2nd District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles said the law does not unfairly target the news media and should apply to “any driver who follows too closely, swarms in, or drives recklessly with the requisite intent and purpose, whether or not the driver is a celebrity photographer“.
The charges carry a penalty of six months in jail. Raef’s reps are yet to comment on the decision of the court.
Bieber, at the time, said he hoped the incident would “inspire meaningful legislation” to protect the celebrities being hounded as well as the photographers.
This is not the first time Bieber is having run-ins with the paparazzi. In 2013, a photographer trailing the singer’s white Ferrari in Los Angeles got himself killed attempting to cross a busy highway to take photos of the car.