Anti-Raves Act Of 2011 Introduced in California State Assembly
Yes, it had to happen. A law banning raves. Today, California State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma introduced the “Anti-Raves Act of 2011.” This proposed legislation comes on the heels of the death of a 15-year old girl at a Los Angeles Coliseum rave earlier this year. We’re surprised Ms. Ma didn’t name the bill after after the deceased girl, usually that’s a sure-fire winner to get a law passed. Will this bill become law? Who knows. Constitutional problems abound, to say nothing of common sense. But let’s take a look at what this law would do.
The bill, AB 74, would add a new section 421 to the California Penal Code which would read, in part, as follows:
“(a) Any person who conducts a public event at night that includes prerecorded music and lasts more than three and one-half hours is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or twice the actual or estimated gross receipts for the event, whichever is greater.”
In the bill’s current form, the only people exempted from this law are people who hold public events on private property and are properly licensed to do so. This means entertainment venues, bars, theaters, and sporting events.
On its face, this bill violates almost every recognized constitutional protection under the First Amendment and also also runs afoul of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Our favorite part of the bill is the bizarre prohibition on “pre-recorded music.” Clearly this is targeted at DJs, “electronic” artists, and of course, hip-hop. Ya know, there was a time when people believed live music lead to things like drug use, promiscuity, and death. For the past 100 years everyone from jazz musicians to heavy metal bands had to put up with accusations that they were “bad for the kids.” It looks like the day has come for DJs and techno-type acts to step up and get their public flogging.
On the other hand, the bill says there’s a violation of the law if the event “includes” prerecorded music. Does this mean that if a live band uses a synthesizer with sampled tones there’s a problem? What about pre-recorded music on the PA in between bands? Maybe live music ain’t so safe after all. One has to wonder, and this goes to the heart of the matter, if there was a giant dance party sponsored by a church that featured nothing but DJs playing Christian music would the police shut it down and recommend that prosecutors file criminal charges? Good luck with that.
We’re also curious about what happens to people who are hosting late night cookouts at the park or beach with a portable stereo providing pre-recorded music. And what about people who hold public events on their own private property but are not licensed to do so. Religious practice comes to mind, as do things like block parties. And of course, there’s teenagers who throw huge parties when mom and dad leave town. Are they facing a misdemeanor conviction and a $10,000 fine? If they hire a live band to play at the party are they off the hook? What if the police find an iPod on one of the guests? Does the event then include pre-recorded music? What if people are screening movies on their property and it goes longer than 3 1/2 hours? Can they only show silent movies or can they show talkies as long as they strip out the music score and soundtrack?
According to the Neon Tommy blog, Assemblywoman Ma has promised to “work with rave promoters, county officials and first responders to amend the bill as necessary.” Stay tuned.
UPDATE 12/27/10: Assemblywoman Ma has now said that she is going to “put the measure on hold” according to the SF Chronicle Politics Blog. Ms. Ma says, in part: ”I commit to not moving AB 74 until meeting and hearing from all perspectives.” Heh.