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Shore Legislators Push Accident Victim Privacy Bill

Senator Chris Connors
(Photo Courtesy Chris Connors Facebook Page)

First responders who take a photo or video of an accident victim without consent could be facing legal ramifications if a approval of a bill by Ninth District Legislators goes through.

Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove have requested a bill 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 bill is a response to an accident that occurred in October of 2009 where photos of an accident involving Barnegat resident Cathy Bates were published on Facebook prior to the family even being notified.

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.

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.

In a written press statement Senator Connors explains the tragic toll seeing a loved one’s accident can have.

“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.”

Connors says what happened with Ms. Bates is horrible, “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.”

The Senator notes that in a letter to the Chairman of the Law and Public Safety Committee, more than 5,000 state residents have a signed a petition in support of the legislation.

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