Is what’s good for the city of Beaumont good for the entire state of California? No, say civil libertarians gearing up for a fight over legislation that would require retailers statewide to put blinders on the front of printed materials that display “harmful matter.”

The bill, AB 1067, is set for its first policy hearing in the Assembly today. It’s patterned after an ordinance adopted by the Riverside County city of Beaumont two years ago. Business owners who don’t shield racy magazine covers in the city of 30,000 are subject to fines of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.

“We lovingly call it ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’” Beaumont City Manager Alan Kapanicas said. “You’re free to sell it, but not to subject youth to it.”

State law makes it illegal to knowingly sell or exhibit harmful matter to minors. The Penal Code describes harmful matter, in three paragraphs, as printed or video material that appeals to “the prurient interest � in a patently offensive way.” The law also allows individual counties and cities � like Beaumont � to require retailers to shield sexually explicit materials with blinder racks.

Now Beaumont has persuaded its assemblyman to push legislation that would expand the use of blinders statewide. The bill would punish violators regardless of whether they intentionally target minors with their displays or not, although businesses closed to people under age 18 would be exempt.

Matt Gray, a lobbyist for the Free Speech Coalition, an adult entertainment industry group, said the bill goes too far. Gray said that while many publishers already wrap pornographic magazines in opaque plastic, he wonders whether the new law would require such publications as Maxim or the annual swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated to cover up.

“This is going to result in self-censorship,” he said. “The definitions are so vague that retailers are just going to pull these materials rather than risk fines.”

The American Civil Liberties Union is also opposing the bill.

“There are a lot of materials out there that arguably have harmful matter on the cover, and this would require blinders on all sorts of things, from art books to sex education materials and the like,” said ACLU legislative director Francisco Lobaco.

Kapanicas said that in two years Beaumont has never had a problem or a complaint. (Look up the bill here.)

Cheryl Miller


A convicted Santa Clara drunk driver is hoping his good deed will convince a judge to cut him some slack.

Mark Flores, 25, agreed to open up his DUI trial on Friday to 250 students at James Lick High School, allowing his real criminal case to demonstrate the consequences of drunk driving.

Flores was arrested in September by the California Highway Patrol. He’d been the designated driver among his friends but had drunk one and a half 32-oz. bottles of beer, his attorney, Supervising Deputy Public Defender J.J. Kapp, said. His blood alcohol level tested at 0.13 percent.

It was a run-of-the-mill DUI case in which the defense attorney would probably advise a client to plead guilty, but Flores pleaded not guilty so he could participate in the DUI Court in the Schools program, a cooperative effort by the DA’s office, public defender’s office, and other government agencies intended to teach students the serious consequences of drunk driving.

An advisory student jury found Flores guilty of one count � driving with more than 0.08 percent of blood alcohol level � but deadlocked on the impairment count. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Hector Ramon rendered guilty verdicts on both counts and after the trial, facilitated a discussion with the students, attorneys and the defendant. Flores will be sentenced later this month.

Kapp said that though the court does not necessarily promise leniency to defendants who participate in the program, it is inclined to render a penalty less than the standard DUI punishment.

“There’s a break on the fine and possibly some of the jail time,” Kapp said.

The program, developed by Traffic Safe Communities Network in Santa Clara County in 2001, is the first of its kind in the state, according to the group.

Flores’ case was selected to participate in the program because it was a clear-cut case, said Kapp, who supervises the misdemeanor and domestic violence teams.

Kapp also represented a defendant participating in the program last semester. He said that for a defense attorney, representing a client under those circumstances can be difficult, but “for the big-picture benefit,” it’s worth it.

Millie Lapidario