Another critique is that the language is too vague and could be construed to go after any journalist, not just the paparazzi.
"Whose news gathering is going to be too troublesome in the future?" asks Armour. "My concern is that in may have a chilling effect on legitimate media outlets."
Patrick Alach of Paparazzi Reform Initiative, a lawyer who helped write the law, resists such accusations. He points out that since AB 4279 is a criminal law, it must be proved beyond reasonable doubt while showing that there both was dangerous driving and that the driving was intended to capture a photograph for commercial use. "This makes broadsweeping application of this in inappropriate situations difficult to bring successfully."
Winkler agrees that the statute is vague, but because the Bieber chase was "so outrageous," he says, "I don't think there will be a problem in this case."
"The concern is this will be used in circumstances not so obvious," says Bibring. Armour agrees, adding that it's one thing to discuss the law in hypotheticals, but only in concrete cases will its full ramifications be understood.
But according to one of its co-sponsors, former California Assembly Woman Karen Bass, now a U.S. representative, the law is working just as it should. In an E-mailed statement, she said, "In this specific case, I am glad Justin Beiber [sic] is safe and I hope that this incident serves as a lesson to paparazzi that they cannot cause severe risk to the public and the individual they are pursuing."
Corrected on 7/30/2012: A previous version of this article misspelled Patrick Alach’s name.