Relates to the privacy rights of crime victims; prohibits public servants from disseminating or broadcasting of images of crime victims.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the civil rights law, in relation to the privacy rights of crime victims
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: A public servant, or anyone acting as a public servant who intentionally broadcast or publishes an image of a crime victim outside of their official duties can be subject to a civil action to recover damages suffered by reason of such wrongful disclosure.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:
Section 1 amends the civil rights law by adding a new section 50-f.
Section 2 is the effective date.
JUSTIFICATION: In March 2009, a 26 year-old woman named Caroline Wimmer was brutally murdered in her West Brighton, Staten Island apartment. Caroline was a charming and fun-loving young woman, popular amongst her friends and beloved by her family. Emergency personnel arrived on the scene shortly after Caroline's horrified mother found her on the floor of her bathroom. Inexplicably and shockingly, one' of the EMTs on the scene - Mark Musarella took a picture of Caroline and later posted it on his Facebook page.
Despite the egregiousness of this act, Musarella could only be charged with the simple misdemeanor of official conduct; he would later plead own to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, a mere violation no more serious than trespassing or possession of a small amount of marijuana. He also received only 200 hours of community service and no jail time.
New York State law must be updated to address situations like this. It is clear from the outcome of Mark Musarella's prosecution that current law is inadequate in this area. This bill would bring the Civil Rights Law right of privacy section into the modern age and ensure that any public official who commits a ghastly, insensitive and appalling act such as this can be subject to a civil action to recover damages suffered by reason of such wrongful disclosure.
It will further help deter such actions and try to ensure that no family will have to experience the double horrors that the Wimmer family faced. Further, this law would strongly promote the training of public servants to encourage proper and respectful treatment of crime victim images and discourage egregious acts like this.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: New bill.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.
EFFECTIVE DATE: Immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 7848 IN SENATE June 13, 2014 ___________Introduced by Sen. SAVINO -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Codes AN ACT to amend the civil rights law, in relation to the privacy rights of crime victims THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. The civil rights law is amended by adding a new section 50-f to read as follows: S 50-F. RIGHT OF PRIVACY; DISSEMINATION OF THE IMAGE OF A CRIME VICTIM. 1. THE IMAGE OF A CRIME VICTIM, WITHIN THE MEANING OF SECTION SIX HUNDRED FORTY-ONE OF THE EXECUTIVE LAW, SHALL BE DEEMED CONFIDENTIAL TO THE EXTENT PROVIDED IN THIS SECTION. NO PERSON WHO IS A PUBLIC SERV- ANT, OR WHO IS PERFORMING THE OFFICIAL DUTIES OF A PUBLIC SERVANT, WHO IN THE COURSE OF HIS OR HER OFFICIAL DUTIES RECORDS A STILL OR MOTION PICTURE IMAGE OF A CRIME VICTIM, SHALL INTENTIONALLY BROADCAST OR PUBLISH SUCH IMAGE OF SUCH CRIME VICTIM OUTSIDE OF THE COURSE OF CONDUCT OF HIS OR HER OFFICIAL DUTIES, EXCEPT THAT NOTHING HEREIN SHALL BE CONSTRUED TO IMPAIR OR DIMINISH THE AUTHORITY TO USE SUCH STILL OR MOTION PICTURE IMAGE FOR AN AUTHORIZED OFFICIAL PURPOSE, INCLUDING AUTHORIZED TRAINING, NOR THE OBLIGATION TO DISCLOSE SUCH IMAGE PURSUANT TO A COURT ORDER OR AS MAY OTHERWISE BE REQUIRED BY LAW. 2. FOR PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION: (A) "BROADCAST" MEANS ELECTRONICALLY TRANSMITTING A VISUAL IMAGE WITH THE INTENT THAT IT BE VIEWED BY A PERSON. (B) "DISSEMINATE" MEANS TO GIVE, PROVIDE, LEND, DELIVER, MAIL, SEND, FORWARD, TRANSFER OR TRANSMIT, ELECTRONICALLY OR OTHERWISE TO ANOTHER PERSON. (C) "PUBLISH" MEANS TO (I) POST, PRESENT, DISPLAY, EXHIBIT, CIRCULATE, ADVERTISE OR ALLOW ACCESS, ELECTRONICALLY OR OTHERWISE, SO AS TO MAKE AN IMAGE OR IMAGES AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC; OR (II) DISSEMINATE WITH THE INTENT THAT AN IMAGE OR IMAGES BE POSTED, PRESENTED, DISPLAYED, EXHIB- ITED, CIRCULATED, ADVERTISED OR MADE ACCESSIBLE, ELECTRONICALLY OR OTHERWISE AND TO MAKE SUCH IMAGE OR IMAGES AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD15577-01-4 S. 7848 2
3. IF AN IMAGE OF A CRIME VICTIM, AS DEFINED IN SUBDIVISION ONE OF THIS SECTION, IS BROADCAST OR PUBLISHED IN VIOLATION OF SUCH SUBDIVI- SION, ANY PERSON INJURED BY SUCH BROADCAST OR PUBLICATION, MAY BRING AN ACTION TO RECOVER ACTUAL AND/OR EXEMPLARY DAMAGES SUFFERED BY REASON OF SUCH WRONGFUL BROADCAST OR PUBLICATION. IN ANY ACTION BROUGHT UNDER THIS SECTION, THE COURT MAY AWARD REASONABLE ATTORNEY'S FEES TO A PREVAILING PLAINTIFF. 4. ANY PERSON WHO, UPON APPLICATION TO A COURT HAVING JURISDICTION OVER SAID ACTION, DEMONSTRATES TO THE SATISFACTION OF THE COURT THAT AN AUTHORIZED, OFFICIAL PURPOSE EXISTED FOR SUCH BROADCAST OR PUBLICATION, SHALL HAVE A DEFENSE TO SUCH ACTION. SUCH APPLICATION SHALL BE MADE UPON NOTICE TO ALL PARTIES AS WELL AS THE CRIME VICTIM AND ANY PERSON LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CARE OF SUCH CRIME VICTIM. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.