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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

October, 2006

 

Governor Signs Bill Outlawing Theft of Free Newspapers

Gov. Schwarzenegger signed AB 2612 by Assembly member George Plescia (R-San Diego) which would make it a crime to steal more than 25 copies of a free newspaper.
"The freedom of the press is one of the most precious freedoms that Americans enjoy," said Gov. Schwarzenegger. "We must work to ensure that no one is able to deprive others of their first amendment rights."

In Nov. 2002, a local Bay Area politician stole more than 1,000 copies of a free newspaper that did not endorse his reelection. The politician was only able to be charged with petty theft. The newspapers were removed and immediately trashed. In a separate incident in May 2002, a free college paper had several thousand copies stolen by a group that did not agree with the newspaper's editorial content. Recently in Chula Vista and the greater San Diego area, an individual removed entire bundles from news racks and transported them across the border where he sold them to recyclers in Mexico.

Specifically, AB 2612:

1. Defines a new crime that is committed when a person takes more than 25 copies of free newspapers to sell or barter the papers, to recycle the papers for cash or other payment, to harm a competitor or to prevent others from reading the paper.


2. Provides that a first violation shall be an infraction punishable by a fine not exceeding $250 and a second or subsequent violation shall be punishable as an infraction or a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction would be punishable by a fine not exceeding $500, imprisonment of up to 10 days in a county jail, or both that fine and imprisonment.


3. Clarifies that this new offense is a unique crime, not a form of petty theft.

The bill will take effect Jan. 1, 2007.

Recently, Gov. Schwarzenegger also signed AB 2581 by Assemblymember Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) that enhanced freedom of speech protections for college journalists.




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