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

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

The law, which Newson signed alongside rappers, record producers and recording industry executives who attended virtually, is the first in the nation to ensure that someone’s “creative expression” n is not used to “introduce active stereotypes or prejudices” against a defendant or be used as evidence in a trial against them.

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

It comes after Atlanta rappers Young Thug and Gunna were among two dozen people arrested earlier this year on racketeering charges. The indictments against them reference the lyrics of their hip-hop songs, and prosecutors allege Young Thug formed a street gang and promoted it through his music.

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

The law states that rap lyrics and other forms of creative expression can only create circumstantial evidence of the motive or intent of an alleged crime and that their introduction into evidence creates a significant risk of unfair prejudice against accused.

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