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Bills would ban publishing and broadcasting crime photos

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Bills would ban publishing and broadcasting crime photos 05/05/97 CALIFORNIA--Two new bills introduced in the state assembly would prohibit the…

Bills would ban publishing and broadcasting crime photos

05/05/97

CALIFORNIA–Two new bills introduced in the state assembly would prohibit the news media from publishing or broadcasting photographs of crime scenes and victims. The legislation would also allow victims and their families to sue for violation of the restrictions.

One of the bills, proposed by Reps. Helen Thomson (D-Davis) and Howard Wayne (D-San Diego), would allow victims’ families to sue news organizations for civil damages if they publish or air any “still photo, video or film image, audiotape or representation of a murder, rape, mutilation, or torture in progress” or immediate after it occured. Any person who would be entitled to bring a wrongful death action is also entitled to sue under this bill.

Liability will not be imposed only if the material does not depict criminal conduct, the family consented to the dissemination of the material, or the material was presented solely to further the investigation or prosecution of the action to which the material is relevant.

A similar bill, proposed by Rep. Diane Martinez (D-Monterey Park), would subject newspapers and television stations to civil liability for publishing, broadcasting or marketing a copy, reproduction, or facsimile of any kind of photograph, videotape, negative or body part without the written consent of the crime victim or their immediate family. The restrictions would not apply if any cohabitant or member of the immediate family of the victim is suspected to have committed the crime or if the person suspected of committing the crime has suffered a previous conviction.

Both of these bills are opposed by the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the California First Amendment Coalition. They were both referred to the Committee on the Judiciary in late March. (A.B.1500; A.B.1343)