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California Bill Would Increase Penalties For Disrupting Sporting Events

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- State Sen. Scott Wiener announced a bill Thursday that would build upon existing laws to increase penalties for professional sporting event attendees who trespass onto the field or court, or violate the safety of players or coaches.

The existing penalty in California for running onto the field of play or throwing an object to interfere with the game is a fine of $250, though similar offenses in states like New York or Illinois are met with more substantial penalties, according to Wiener's office.

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"In many other states, field trespassing is at least a misdemeanor, and, in some cases, a felony," John Skinner, senior director of security and facility management for Major League Baseball, said in a statement.

Senate Bill 689, the Player Safety and Security Act, would penalize game trespassers or spectators who physically attempt to interfere with the game by punishing the acts as an infraction with a fine of up to $1,000 or a misdemeanor with up to 10 days in county jail and a fine of $2,500 for the first offense.

Repeat offenders would face two months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

The bill would also impose a $2,000 fine or up to one year of imprisonment or both for attendees who commit battery against a player or coach. Currently, state law only protects sports officials such as referees or umpires but does not extend to players or coaches.

"Players and coaches are at their most vulnerable during play, when they are focused on the game and largely unaware of activity in the stands," San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer said in a statement. "We need statewide penalties that are serious enough to make people think twice abut running out onto the field during a game and compromising safety and security."

Last year, a security guard suffered serious injuries after stopping a trespasser who ran onto the field at San Francisco's AT&T Park. A separate incident last year at AT&T Park had former Giants left fielder Angel Pagan slamming a trespasser to the ground.

The bill, which was coauthored by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, and Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, has received strong support from numerous pro sports teams in the state as well as MLB.

"The statewide support for this bill shows that we can all work together to strengthen penalties for running onto the field and to keep athletes safe," Wiener said in a statement. "No one, not fans or players, should feel unsafe at these games."

UPDATE 4/25: SB689 was approved at a hearing of the Senate Public Safety Committee. It now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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