California Legislature Considers Criminalizing Making Felony Videos

By George Khoury, Esq. on June 02, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The California legislature is considering a new law that would allow prosecutors in the state to bring enhanced aiding and abetting, or even enhanced felony charges, when a felony crime is video recorded. That means that a person who video records a felony could also be held liable for assisting in the crime for making a video.

While the new law is not intended to dissuade innocent bystanders and eyewitnesses from making videos, there is a fear that it will be misunderstood as such. The law is intended to target individuals who agreed to film criminal acts, particularly the individuals that are seeking viral notoriety.

Criminalizing Easy Evidence

As various social media platforms have increasingly turned to video sharing, law enforcement departments across the globe have increasingly been able to arrest criminals thanks to the videos the criminals themselves share. This new law imposes increased criminal liability for the individual taking the video, if they are associated with the person committing the crime.

By criminalizing the planned video recording of felonies, it may result in fewer criminals video recording their crimes, or just fewer videos being posted online. However, it is also anticipated that by criminalizing making the videos, less crimes will be committed for the sake of gaining viral video notoriety.

Pranksters Beware

While there is a fine line between funny and obnoxious when it comes to pranks, there's also a fine line between legal and illegal. Even Sergio Flores, the notorious Sexy Sax Man himself, whose pranks delighted even the "victims," could have faced criminal prosecution for trespassing, and creating a nuisance, among other crimes (of the heart). However, these sorts of crimes, because they are usually misdemeanors, would not qualify for the enhanced sentencing for video recording crimes under the new law.

If a prank involves an intentional assault, battery, or harming another individual, for the sake of a prank video, it is much more likely that the crime will be considered a felony. Even if the assault is minor and would ordinarily be charged as a misdemeanor, charges can be enhanced or brought as aggravated charges if the nature of the crime warrants such.

Generally, aggravated charges get filed when a crime is committed for a malicious, senseless, unconscionable, or evil, purpose. For instance, filming an assault in order to get viral video notoriety is likely to result in aggravated charges even absent the new law, though the new law will help to criminalize the actions of the video's recorder.

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