Artistic Freedom: California law restricts the use of artistic expression as evidence

Rap music has often been criticized for its vulgar language and explicit lyrics, that narrate criminal acts. Some argue that rap music glorifies crimes relating to gang violence, drug abuse, and misogyny. As a result, some have suggested that rap music encourages criminal behaviors and is responsible for a rise in crime. However; we can’t ignore that rap music is a form of creative expression and not an accurate representation of reality. In 2022, Governor Gavin Newson passed a bill that reinforces the fact that rap music and other forms of artwork are just a form of creative expression.

Assembly Bill 2799 was passed unanimously by Congress and it requires California courts to balance the value of creative expression as evidence and the potential prejudice it can induce on the case. The bill specifically states that the probative value of creative expression for its literal truth is minimal unless it provides factual details that are not available to the public, expression is created near the time the crime was committed, or bears sufficient similarity to the crime. The author of the legislation, Reginald Jones-Sawyer, argues that even when creative expressions are admitted as evidence, the jury can still be poisoned with implicit biases that come from the forms of creative expression; therefore, the bill requires a judge to hold a hearing to weigh evidence outside jury presence. The dangers of racial bias being introduced to trials through rap lyrics are prevalent and cases have been overturned because of the use of creative expression as evidence in court cases.

This bill is a step forward in breaking down the biases associated with rap music.
The systematic prosecution of people for rap lyrics can be compared to the prosecution of poetry. The quality and meaning behind poetry, good or bad, should never be used against artists by prosecutors. The bill broadens the meaning of creative expression and states that creative expression is the application of creativity or imagination in the production of forms, sounds, words, movements, or symbols; and has made it possible to protect the different forms of creative expression. California is the first state the enact this type of legislation into law and many other states shave similar legislation. This is beneficial to the artistic community as it allows for more creative freedom. This bill also encourages less art censorship from the government as artworks can no longer be incriminating. In the future, hopefully, more states put this type of legislation into law and allow for the artistic freedom of more and more artists.

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