SACRAMENTO, Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation this week making it an infraction to take more than 25 copies of a free newspaper to recycle it or prevent people from reading it.
The measure, by Assembly Minority Leader George Plescia, R-La Jolla, is a response to several incidents in which large numbers of free papers were taken from news boxes to be sold for recycling or to keep others from reading them.
In one case, the entire press run of the Chula Vista Star was taken from news racks on three different occasions and sold to recyclers in Mexico. Authorities said they were powerless to prosecute because the newspapers were free and had no fair market value.
In another instance, thousands of copies of the Epoch Times began disappearing in the San Gabriel Valley after the Chinese language paper began publishing articles on human rights violations and other issues in China.
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates was fined $100 for trashing hundreds of copies of the Daily Californian in 2002 after the University of California at Berkeley student newspaper endorsed his opponent.
A spokesman for Plescia, Morgan Crinklaw, said AB 2612 would make it easier to prosecute similar cases.
"It's not as ambiguous as before," he said.
The measure makes it an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $250 to take more than 25 copies of a free newspaper to sell or barter the papers, recycle them for cash or another type of compensation, hurt a competitor or prevent others from reading the paper.
A subsequent offense could be prosecuted as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500, sentencing of up to 10 days in the county jail or both.