Say what you will about the rich and famous, there is one thing for certain: as well-know as they may be, well-known personalities have as much of an expectation of safety on the road as anyone else. Famous or not, every driver or passenger riding in a motor vehicle should feel they are protected equally by state and federal laws governing road usage and motor vehicle operation. Those who cause car, truck or motorcycle accidents must answer for their deeds.
Of course, there may be some people out there that feel celebrities have whatever is coming to them, especially since they decided to pursue their fame. But the law is not written to discriminate between rich and poor, the famous or the lesser known. We mention this because it appears that a paparazzi photographer who pursued pop teen idol, Justin Bieber, on an L.A. freeway may well be facing charges for his actions on a public road.
According to news articles, 30-year-old Paul Raef may be looking at up to 12 months in jail for his part in what authorities refer to as a high-speed chase as he apparently attempted to get photos of the young singer in his unique chrome Fisker electric-powered sports car. Based on police reports, the chase took place along a stretch of I-101 back on July 6 when Raef was following Bieber in a Toyota sport utility vehicle. News articles reported that police were alerted to the event when several other drivers called 911 to report a high-speed chase between two vehicles in the San Fernando Valley.
As Maryland personal injury attorneys, we are quite sensitive to instances of what police and other law enforcement agencies refer to as aggressive driving. More than one fatal car accident has resulted from an instance of one angry or reckless individual behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle. In fact, the frequency of the paparazzi following celebrities has actually results in laws being passed that punish dangerous activities by members of the media who pursue the rich and famous.
In this particular instance, the suspect in question will likely be the first paparazzo to be tried under California’s new law that limits the extent to which a person may go to obtain photos of celebrities for personal gain. That California law, enacted in 2010, calls for much stiffer fines and other penalties for photographers who drive recklessly — or even block sidewalks — in the pursuit of celebrities.
At the time, according to reports, the police intervened in the Bieber incident, they observed a half-dozen cars following the pop star’s Fisker. The vehicle reportedly being driving by Mr. Raef was observed attaining speeds in excess of 80mph as it crossed multiple lanes, as well as driving on the shoulder. Numerous member of the public were apparently forced to hit their brakes or swerve out of the way to avoid being colliding with the suspect’s vehicle, this according to the county prosecutor’s office.
While Bieber stopped for police and was, himself, cited for speeding, Raef reportedly drove off and was reported again — a scant half hour later — to be following Bieber’s car again. Eventually, after being able to identify the man’s vehicle, police tracked the photographer down and arrested him. Among the numerous charges were reckless driving, failing to obey orders from the police, following another motor vehicle too closely, as well as reckless driving with the intent to capture pictures for commercial gain.
With all the uproar over the untimely death of Lady Diana in the United Kingdom so many years ago, it would seem that the American justice system finally has some of its own ammunition when it comes to dangerous driving activities by members of the tabloid press. All the better, especially in densely packed urban areas where one wrong move could send an innocent person to the hospital, or worse, the morgue.
Justin Bieber: Paparazzo in chase first to face charges under law, LATimes.com, July 25, 2012