New Jersey law restricts first responder photos, videos at wrecks

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, August 23, 2012

A new law in New Jersey is intended to discourage emergency responders from sharing with friends and family photos or videos of accident victims. It took effect immediately.

Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bill to prohibit first responders from distributing photos of accident victims without getting prior written consent from a victim, or the next-of-kin. Sharing the photos without consent could result in six months jail time and a $1,000 fine. Offenders could also face a civil lawsuit.

Photos or video taken for “legitimate law enforcement, public safety, health care, or insurance purposes” are not affected by the new rule.

The bill – S199 – was introduced following a fatal wreck two years ago in Barnegat, NJ. During the 2009 incident a volunteer first responder snapped images of the scene and posted them on Facebook before the family of Cathy Bates was notified.

The new law defines first responders as law enforcement officers, firefighters, or other paid or volunteer personnel who are trained to provide emergency medical services.

Republican lawmakers from Atlantic County sponsored the bill. Sen. Christopher Connors, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove issued a joint statement after the bill signing that the new rule reflects the realities of today’s rapidly expanding and evolving social media.

“The intent is to prevent the type of shockingly irresponsible behavior and unforgiveable lack of sensitivity that occurred in connection with the tragic incident,” the statement read.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey, click here.

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