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NJ Law Prohibiting First Responder Photography of Victims

NJ Law Prohibiting First Responder Photography of Victims Likely to be Abused

New Jersey has passed a law that makes it illegal for first responders to photograph and disseminate photographs of accident victims without written permission from their family.

Like many other laws named after dead people, “Cathy’s Law” is a result of an emotional plea from the victim’s family rather than a logical approach to an issue, a topic frequently addressed by Radley Balko.

In this case, Cathy Bates was a 40-year-old woman who died in a car accident in 2009. A volunteer fire fighter arrived on the scene, took her photo and posted it on Facebook before her family was notified.

So her family spent the next two years lobbying for a law that would make it a crime for first responders to photograph and disseminate photos of accident victims without written permission from the family.

Governor Chris Christie signed the law into effect on Wednesday. Connecticut passed a similar law more commonly known as “Joshua’s Law.”

The law is already being debated online with some calling it unconstitutional and others saying it necessary to protect the privacy of victims.

But Mickey Osterreicher, attorney from the National Press Photographers Association, wondered how it would affect journalists covering accident scenes.

“How long do u think it will be before 1st responders misapply & try to enforce this law against news photographers?” he asked on his Facebook wall earlier today.

It’s a valid question considering first responders already try to enforce non-existent laws against journalists and citizens who have the same legal right to document accidents.

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