Legislation in California that would limit the use of hip-hop lyrics as criminal evidence in court proceedings has cleared the state’s legislature.
Senate Bill AB 2799 passed unanimously in a 76-0 vote on Tuesday, August 23rd. The bill is now headed to the governor's desk, where it should be signed into law in the coming days. This would be the first such measure to become law in history.
The legislation, first introduced by state Sen. Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D), is looking to make sure “an accused person’s creative expression will not be used to introduce stereotypes or activate bias against the defendant, nor as character or propensity evidence.”
The bill will also require courts to determine the admissibility of the song lyrics as evidence in the case, and whether the content should be linked to the alleged crime.
“And to recognize that the use of rap lyrics and other creative expression as circumstantial evidence of motive or intent is not a sufficient justification to overcome substantial evidence that the introduction of rap lyrics creates a substantial risk of unfair prejudice,” the text of the bill reads.
The proposition comes just four months after the high-profile arrests of Atlanta rap stars Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Williams, and Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens. The two were among more than two dozen individuals arrested by authorities on felony racketeering charges.