N.J. may make distributing accident-scene photos a crime

A Senate committee has approved legislation that would make it a crime for first responders in New Jersey to distribute photographs of accident victims.

The legislation follows an incident in Barnegat Township in 2009 when volunteer firefighters at the scene of a head-on collision took graphic photographs of a dying woman.

The victim’s mother, Lucille Bates-Wickward, says those photos ended up on the Internet before the family knew about the accident.

“Persons that don’t have scruples need to have some type of a warning, be afraid of something, and that’s why we came up of some type of a law that would give them some type of thing to scare them, and that might stop this from happening,” she said.

Sen. Chris Connors, R-Ocean, says preventing such a traumatic experience as Bates-Wickward and her family experienced is a matter of common decency.

“There’s no need to have photographs distributed to third parties that are not involved in an investigation or medical review. Most individuals that serve in emergency services do so in a professional capacity,” Connors said. “So we just want to make sure that we have a law in place for those that may intend to do something that’s out of the norm.”

Violators would face penalties of up to 18 months in prison and $10,000 fines.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.