First responders who take pictures of accident victims and disseminate them without permission from the victim’s family would be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 18 months in jail under a bill advaced by the Senate Law and Public Safety committee today.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Chris Connors, (R-9) arose from the death of Manchester resident Cathy Bates in a 2009 head-on collision. A first-responder took cell phone pictures of Bates’ last moments and posted them on Facebook. Hard copies of the photos were made and distributed all before the family was notifed that Bates, 40, had been in the accident on Route 72 in Barnegat.
Bates’ mother, Lucille Bates-Wickward, testified that no family should be subjected to the horror and indignity of seeing photos of a loved one who has been in an accident.
“Cathy’s son was four years old and he’s autistic,” she said. “I’ve always been concerned that he would see the images of his mother – very graphic images – of her trying to live.”
The bill, S199, was passed unanimously by the committee.
An identical bill has been introduced in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, (R-21), Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, (D-18) and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, (R-11).