After Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies shared graphic photos from the helicopter crash that killed Lakers star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in Calabasas, the California Senate has approved a bill that would make it a crime for first responders to take pictures of dead people for reasons other than official investigations. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the bill, which had previously been approved by the Assembly, must next be signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
How the Law Has Changed
Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson) introduced the bill after the LA Times reported that deputies shared photographs of the scene of the Jan. 26 crash. Gipson said he was “mortified” to hear those first responders shared unauthorized photos from the scene of the crash. The measure, which was proposed by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, would make it a misdemeanor for a law enforcement official to photograph a deceased person at a crime or accident scene unless it is required for an official investigation.
A conviction would be punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. The Times reported that three days after the helicopter crash a Los Angeles County deputy was at a Norwalk bar and allegedly showed other patrons some gruesome photos taken at the scene. After a citizen complained, Los Angeles Sheriff, Alex Villanueva acknowledged that the department ordered deputies to delete images.
Current law prohibits the reproduction of photos taken by a coroner of a body at an accident or crime scene. However, there is no ban on unauthorized photos taken by first responders including police officers, firefighters, and ambulance crews. Because we now have smartphones and social media platforms, it is just easier for these photos to be captured and uploaded to the Internet where they can be shared numerous times.
A Much Needed Law
Our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers fully support this new law, which protects victims and their families. It is absolutely disgusting to share photos of individuals – be it injured or deceased victims – at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. Further, it is devastating for grieving families and loved ones who in some cases may not even be aware of a family member’s death. We hope Gov. Newsom signs this bill into law so it goes into effect and serves the purpose of protecting vulnerable victims and their families.