California Assembly Bill 1256 (AB 1256) – Privacy and Buffer Zones

AB 1256 (Bloom)
Privacy: Buffer Zones
Fact Sheet
PURPOSE
Minors on school grounds are increasingly subject to intrusions into their personal lives occurring as a result of unauthorized surveillance and photographing, causing them mental and emotional anguish, impacting their ability to develop their personalities during formative years and impeding their abilities to focus on school activities. Parents are powerless to prevent their children from being photographed and their images sold as commodities to various publications, and are powerless to ensure that their children’s time at school is not subject to the severe distraction of persons engaged in surveillance and photograph of the children. Similar instances have occurred during very sensitive times when individuals are attempting to seek personal medical treatment.
Clear buffer zones meant to protect the safety and privacy of the general public need to be established.
SUMMARY
AB 1256 would create such buffer zones by:
1.  Amending Section 1708.8 of the Civil Code to include within the definition of “personal and familial activity” activities of minors occurring at private and public schools, activities occurring at various medical facilities, and activities occurring where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists at other locations.
2. Creates Section 1708.9 in the Civil Code, to create buffer ones around entrances and exits at specified facilities, including schools and medical facilities, to prevent barriers and obstructions from impeding ingress and egress to and from such facilities, and to prevent the interruption of important and vital functions of such facilities.
Section 1708.9 particularly defines the obstructionist conduct that would violate this section, and defines the particular areas that require buffer zones, including certain areas around schools and medical facilities. Moreover, actions brought under this section could be initiated by the aggrieved persons, or initiated by the Attorney General, district attorneys, or city attorneys.
The person aggrieved could bring a civil action to enjoin violations of this section, and for compensatory and punitive damages, costs of suit and reasonable attorney’s and expert witness’ fees. The plaintiff could also elect, regarding compensatory damages, to forego actual damages and obtain statutory damages in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per violation, depending on the conduct. Likewise, the Attorney General, district attorneys, or city attorneys instituting an action under this section could obtain fines for violations, the amount depending on the number of violations.
The section further empowers a court of law to fashion relief that is effective to stop recurring violations, including issuing restraining orders.
EXISTING LAW
Existing law provides that “personal and familial” activity is a category of activities protected by Section 1708.8 of the Civil Code. The statute defines “personal and familial activity” to include intimate details of plaintiff’s personal life with the plaintiff’s family or significant others, or other aspects of the private affairs or concerns.
BACKGROUND
The unauthorized photography of children for commercial gain has increased in popularity and profitability. The incentive of financial gain from ill-gotten photographs has prompted individuals to stake out schoolyards while children are present, and snap photographs of the children at play or when they exit school grounds. This activity has caused both the parents and children severe emotional distress, has distracted children’s focus on school activities, and has altered children’s psychological development during critical years of life. Moreover, children are vulnerable to myriad of dangers, including those posed by strangers staking out school grounds. The repetitive presence of an individual staking out school grounds is disturbing, threatening, and potentially dangerous.
The disruption caused by interference with various facilities exits and entrances has a wide impact. Others unrelated to the fanfare are caught in the mire of bedlam, themselves unable to freely move into and out of such facilities. And, the inexcusable dangers posed by obstructing ambulance dispatches can be a matter of life and death to others.
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