9th District legislators Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove have requested legislation (S-199) that would make it a crime for any first responder who takes one or more photographs or electronic images, or makes a video recording of an accident victim without prior written consent to be posted for committee consideration.
The delegation wrote to Senate Law and Public Safety Chairman Senator Donald Norcross to request the bill be posted and provided background material on the bill’s impetus.
Senator Connors is the prime sponsor of legislation in the Senate, while Assemblyman Rumpf and Assemblywoman Gove have joined as cosponsors on the companion bill (A-789). The Delegation issued the following statement regarding their request to have S-199 posted for committee consideration:
“Families should not have to witness or relive the tragic death of a loved one by having such video footage or images appear on the Internet or made public by some other means. We fully recognize that the overwhelming majority of first responders would never violate the privacy of accident victims or their families in such an irresponsible and insensitive manner.
“But the fact of the matter is that such an incident did occur in our state, which exposed the need to update our state’s laws to reflect the wider use of social media whereby video footage and pictures can be posted and viewed by millions in only a short period of time. In the incident that prompted the introduction of this legislation, photographs of an accident victim who lost her life were posted online by volunteer first responders prior to the victim’s family having been notified of the accident. This is a matter of basic human decency and respect in the most horrible of circumstances.
On October 23, 2009, Ms. Cathy Bates was killed in automobile accident on Route 72 in Barnegat Township. At the scene of the accident, a volunteer first responder took photos of her which were posted on Facebook before family members were notified of what took place. Since the incident, Cathy’s mother, Lucille Bates-Wickward, has led the effort to amend State law to prohibit first responders from distributing photos or recordings of an accident scene without the victim or family’s permission.
“Under the legislation, images and footage of accident victims and the incident may be used in first responder training or some other purpose, however, only if consent is given by the accident victim or their family members.”
“In our letter to the Chairman of the Law and Public Safety Committee, we noted that more than 5,000 state residents have signed a petition in support of this legislation to protect the privacy rights of victims and their families. Petitions sent to our office have been forwarded to the State House and entered into the official record of public testimony.”