Republicans Push For Bill To Keep First Responders From Photographing Accident Victims

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TRENTON – A trio of South Jersey Republicans are calling on Senate Law and Public Safety Chairman Senator Donald Norcross (D-Camden) to post for committee consideration a bill that would make it a crime for any first responder to take photographs or video of an accident victim without prior written consent.

The bi-partisan legislation (S-199), sponsored by state Sen. Christopher J. Connors (R-Ocean) and state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), was inspired by circumstances surrounding the 2009 death of Cathy Bates.

On Oct. 23, 2009, 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.

The 9th Legislative District delegation, which includes Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove as well as Connors, wrote, “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.”

Under the proposed 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,” the lawmakers wrote.

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