Free Speech Coalition Rallies to Protect Business Owners

Gretchen Gallen
SACRAMENTO – The Free Speech Coalition and supporters held a press conference at the state Capitol Tuesday morning to back a bill that would provide support to business owners who have had their records and equipment seized by government.

Among members of the industry in attendance at the visit to the Capitol were Dave Cummings, the oldest active porn star in the industry; Dr. Sharon Mitchell of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation; Mary Carey, porn starlet and former gubernatorial candidate; Joan Irvine, executive director for Adult Sites Against Child Pornography (ASACP); and Kat Sunlove, director of FSC.

"The bill addresses the legitimate concerns of law enforcement when it comes to search warrants and records seized," Irvine told XBiz in a phone call from the Capitol. "But this bill is all about providing access to copies of people's business materials after law enforcement has taken their records so that they can continue to maintain their businesses."

According to Irvine, the bill extends to both online and offline industries and was passed through both the state Senate and the House last year, only to be one of the last bills that Gov. Gray Davis vetoed before leaving office.

Assembly Bill 1894, introduced by Assemblyman Bill Longville, proposes that people who have been the subject of a federal investigation be able to re-acquire seized information, records and computers, after a set amount of time.

The FSC has thrown its weight behind Longville's bill in part to protect adult entertainment companies whose business practices are interrupted by federal investigations. The bill would also set a precedent for other states that currently have no similar laws in place in terms of the seizure of property.

The bill provides a procedure for a business owner whose business records have been seized by a government agency, to demand that agency provide within a 10-day court day period, copies of the business records or access to the original records so that the business owner can make copies of the records.

According to the bill, the demand for the records would have to be supported by a declaration that denial of access to the records or copies of the records would either unduly interfere with the entity's ability to conduct its regular course of business or obstruct the entity from fulfilling an affirmative obligation that it has under the law.

The FSC is calling AB1894 a "common sense" bill that helps people maintain their businesses.

"Everybody is innocent until proven guilty," the FSC said in a preliminary statement before the press conference.

The California Chamber of Commerce is also one of the backers of the bill.

"It's not just about the adult industry," Irvine continued. "It's about any business."

The bill is expected to make another round in the Senate late in May and if it is passed, will end up in Governor Schwarzenegger's hands for a signature.