Newsom signs bill to limit use of hip-hop lyrics in criminal cases

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Friday to limit the use of hip-hop lyrics as evidence in criminal cases amid several high-profile cases of lyrics being used against rappers who have been arrested.

The law, which Newson signed alongside rappers, record producers and record industry executives in virtual attendance, is the first in the country to ensure that someone’s “creative expression” is not used to “introduce stereotypes or active bias” against a defendant or be used as evidence in a trial against them.

It also requires courts to decide whether song lyrics are admissible as evidence and whether the content must be linked to an alleged crime.

This comes after Atlanta-based rappers Young Thug and Gunna were among two dozen people arrested earlier this year on racketeering charges. The charges against them refer to lyrics from their hip-hop songs, and prosecutors allege that Young Thug formed a street gang and promoted it through his music.

The legislation passed unopposed in the state Senate and Assembly in August.

The law states that rap lyrics and other forms of creative expression can only create circumstantial evidence of motive or intent behind an alleged crime, and introducing them into evidence creates a significant risk of unfair prejudice against a defendant.

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