Paul Raef, the freelance photographer who engaged Justin Bieber in a high-speed freeway chase, will face criminal charges under California’s first anti-paparazzi law.
According to a statement issued by City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, Raef was charged with reckless driving, failing to obey the lawful order of a peace officer, two counts of following another vehicle too closely and reckless driving with the intent to capture pictures for commercial gain. He faces up to one year in county jail and fines totaling $3,500.
The new law, titled A.B. 2479, imposes harsh penalties on photographers who drive recklessly or block sideways while pursuing celebrities. Trutanich helped craft the law, which was sponsored by Assemblywoman Karen Bass and signed into law by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010.
California Highway Patrol ticketed Justin Bieber for driving in excess of 80 mph and driving recklessly on the 101 Freeway on July 6. Raef managed to evade authorities after the singer was pulled over, but Bieber called 911 and told them he was being followed by a Toyota. Highway Patrol found the Toyota Rav 4 in a garage in downtown Los Angeles, and used the license plate to identify Raef as the driver.
City Councilman Dennis Zine, who reported the incident, said he saw Justin Bieber being pursued by paparazzi, but that it wasn’t an excuse to drive unsafely.
Zine said, “Any time you do 90, the paparazzi are going to go 90. He was going from the fast lane to the slow lane to the shoulder in traffic. It was a very dangerous driving situation. I figured someone was going to crash, so I called 911.”
Paul Raef is scheduled to be arraigned on August 9.