On August 5, 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed California Assembly Bill No. 141 which expands the duties of the California trial courts to admonish jurors to refrain from communicating, researching or disseminating information about any subject of the trial. The new law expressly applies to any form of electronic or wireless communication. [2011 Cal. Laws chap. 181] The new law will take effect on January 1, 2012.
Sponsoring Assembly Member Felipe Fuentes explained: “Although current law arguably prohibits the use of electronic/wireless communication devices to improperly communicate, disseminate information or research, the fact that this kind of communication is not expressly included in current law has resulted in increased problems in courts across the county.”
“[W]illful disobedience by a juror of a court admonishment related to the prohibition on any form of communication or research about the case, including all forms of electronic or wireless communication or research” is punishable as contempt of court, a misdemeanor. Unless otherwise stated, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.