Score one for Halle Berry.
The 47-year-old pregnant actress has been on a mission to get an anti-paparazzi bill passed in California to impose tougher penalties on photographers who harass celebrities and their children. On Tuesday, her hard work paid off when Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 606 into law.
In the law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2014, a paparazzo convicted of harassing a minor who has been singled out due to his or her parent's profession (famous actors, singers, reality TV stars, politicians, etc.) can spend up to a year in jail, which is raised from six months previously. Fines can also be imposed: $10,000 for the first violation, $20,000 for the second, and up to $30,000 for the third. And it also allows the parent or guardian of the child being harassed to seek civil liability.
The term "harassment" has also been clarified. According to the office of state Sen. Kevin de León, who sponsored the bill and worked with Berry to pass it, it now includes "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."
Also clarified in the law is that "transmitting, publishing or broadcasting a child's image and/or voice does not constitute a violation," which had been a First Amendment concern. So journalists taking photos or reporting on news aren't impacted and it instead targets those people being aggressive and stalking.
"I started this fight with a great deal of hope and a bit of uncertainty so I cannot express my immense gratitude that Governor Brown has recognized, and acted to remedy, the plight of children who are tormented because of the identity or prominence of their parents," said "The Call" star, who is mom to a 5-year-old daughter, Nahla, and is expecting a son with husband Olivier Martinez this fall. "On behalf of my children, it is my hope that this is the beginning of the end for those overly aggressive paparazzi whose outrageous conduct has caused so much trauma and emotional distress.
"This started as just a hope and a wish for my daughter. I never thought that I could take it this far and find such amazing partners along the way."
Berry, who has had so much trouble with pesky paps that she wanted to move to Europe, went on to thank some of those partners, including Senator de León, her legal team, and some other Hollywood stars who have been impacted by the harassment.
"I am forever in awe of the support I got within my community from the enormously talented musician Adele to fellow actor, Jennifer Garner, who traveled with me to Sacramento to share her children's stories, experience, and her desire to give them a better life," the Academy Award winner said in a statement. "I'm grateful to Nia Vardalos and the numerous parents who work as actors, musicians, as well as professionals in medicine, mental health, lawyers, judges, and cops who have experienced their children being harassed, tormented or otherwise put in dangerous situations due to their parent's profession and therefore lent their support."
She concluded by saying, "It is for all of us that I rejoice today and hope that this fight will continue and that the proper enforcement of this law will truly make a positive impact on the daily lives of all children."
Berry says she'll spend the next few months until the law goes into effect working closely with other professionals whose children are affected by this law to ensure that local police, sheriffs, and prosecutors vigorously enforce this new statute. And no doubt she'll breathe a sigh of relief when her son is born knowing she's helped make his life a little better.
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