Car Accidents and Paparazzi

By Law Offices of Elia J. Castranova posted in car accidents on Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Car Accidents involving paparazzi and stars seem to be frequent occurrences on Los Angeles streets and highways these days While star photographers may have a First Amendment right to take celebrity photos in public places, it is certain that the Founding Fathers never foresaw the automobile accidents and danger to the public which can result when the pursuit of a news story or tabloid picture turns reckless. On July 6, 2012, a freelance photographer chased Justin Bieber in a high-speed pursuit on the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles with the intent to capture pictures for commercial gain. The paparazzo was charged with several misdemeanor counts including reckless driving and violating anti-paparazzi laws. The pursuit was witnessed by Los Angeles Councilman, Dennis Zine, who called 911 to report the chase. Zine stated, “It was sheer luck and the act of God that no one ended up in a crash”. Jody Armour, a law professor at USC, warned of the “chilling effect” prosecution of paparazzi can have on other news- gathering practices. On August 31, 2012, Bieber was again chased by several cars filled with paparazzi when 2 of the cars, comically, collided with each other. In the past, other celebrities have seen their lives disrupted by these over-zealous photographers. For example, Lindsey Lohan, collided with the rear end of a truck while being followed closely by paparazzi on June 8, 2012. Ironically, she was also sued by a photographer for an incident which occurred in 2010 when he claimed he was injured by a vehicle driven by Lohan’s assistant while he was trying to take a photograph.

As an attorney who believes in the Freedom of the Press, I too worry about the effect of giving too much power to the government to restrict the exercise of such Constitutional rights, especially, when celebrities are in public places. Nevertheless, when the public safety is endangered by high-speed chases and car accidents, it is time to take a closer look at paparazzi who abuse such rights.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Charges filed in Bieber chase”, Kate Mather, July 26, 2012; www.tmz.com, “Justin Bieber-Paparazzi Crash After Chasing Him”, TMZ Staff, August 31, 2012.

*Our firm handles similar situations to what was discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Encino car accident page.