NJ Passes Law Forbidding First Responders to Photograph, Disseminate Photos of Accident Victims

Discussion in 'Photography, Law & Travel' started by Carlos Miller @ PINAC, Aug 10, 2012.

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    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.
    Please send stories, tips and videos to carlosmiller@magiccitymedia.com.

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  2. TravelnMedic

    TravelnMedic Original Member

    jimminey christmas I swear its getting to the point of lunacy, and CC has his head shoved so far up his (expletive deleted) its not funny.

    Is taking pictures in bad taste... no as they can be used in after action reports and debriefs on how to do things better next time. Posting to facebook is a whole other ballgame and not going to go there

    Im sorry I take pictures on scenes I respond to all the time, as I have a specially built mount for the dash of the truck that I can activate via keyfob remote on my badge to take stills or start video rolling. Its blatenly obvious as I'm in Uniform, have work IDs/ press credentials on my person and carry a large Professional DSLR but then again I dont post faces or Identifying features on people. I have awards for images I have taken Texas EMS convention 1st place in 2005 and a couple of others. I even get requests from media outlets from time to time wanting to license images from scenes they couldnt get to quick enough.

    The images I take on scene are only if Im not performing patient care, prepping LZ, landing inbound helicopters or incident command. So basically now FR in NJ have to get two consents (one for treatment/transport/HIPPA, and a photo release) more paperwork to do to slow down/delay treatment.
  3. Doober

    Doober Original Member

    Now, if our fair state would only pass a law requiring all bicycles ridden on public roads to have license plates so that those of us who drive could identify those of them who are constantly breaking traffic laws, that would be wonderful.
  4. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    But back to the original subject -- I fully agree with it. The first responders are your first line of medical care in an emergency. They have no more business photographing you and publishing or reselling those images than a doctor or nurse in the emergency room.
  5. Frank

    Frank Original Member

    The thing is, a photo of an accident scene can be incredibly helpful for determining mechanism of injury, and to flag possible undetected injuries, particularly when you have multiple victims and a chaotic scene. (CHAOS: Chief Has Arrived On Scene :D )

    Posting to social media is not cool, but I'm waiting for the unhappy noises from ER staff to the Governor the first time they don't get pictures because the paramedic is afraid of getting arrested. Ditto some thug with a badge going after someone who ISN'T a first responder using this law as cover. As we all know, it isn't what the law says, it's what the clown with the badge, gun, sap, TASER and 72IQ "thinks" the law says.
  6. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    They're called to provide emergency medical treatment, not as accident investigators. Additionally, many jurisdictions bill the victims for services rendered, and a lot of those bills are paid by the victims' health insurance plans, so there is the legal concept of "agency" at work here. If the victims were to sue for misuse of those photos, they would probably already win in most states.

    Many emergency crews are already affiliated with hospital & health organizations; others operate with direct voice & data links to hospitals. I would be very surprised if federal privacy requirements do not already apply in these situations.

    But that's a side show that will have to be dealt with when it arises. I think the line will end up being drawn based on who employs the photographer. If the photographer works for anyone who also employs the first responders (EMT, police, fire) at a particular accident scene, it would be unwise to allow any photographs to be published.
  7. Frank

    Frank Original Member

    That whooshing sound was the point going over your head. Re-read the first sentence of my post.
  8. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    I didn't miss a thing.
  9. TravelnMedic

    TravelnMedic Original Member

    agree x 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 I cant even remember the number of times I have almost tagged or tagged a cyclist (and even motorcycle drivers) riding/driving stupid.

    I agree, cant tell how many times the recieving hospital has appreciated the photos as they saw something the field crews didnt and the trauma team/surgeons can take care of. LOL that is so true as I have seen CHAOS theory in action on more calls then I care to.

    I have a good working relationship with LE in the jurisdictions I work with but still get occasionally itch that I end up having excise. The camera in the mount has a dual purpose as to defend or crucify the crew in the event something happens (wreck, mishap on scene, etc). Any images or video that Is taken is downloaded to for review by legal prior to any release; I will also go through and censor/blur details that need to be. Ive been to court enought im not going to be stupid with a image and have it blow up in my face.

    Most of the images I have from scenes are when I was third riding with local FD/EMS or Helicopter EMS groups, as I'm not on scene in a capacity that of a provider. When the camera is in the mount on the dash it is hands free and typically engaged before I leave the truck.

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