Bill to Make it Illegal for First Responders to Take Photos of Deceased Clears First Policy Committee

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif --- Today, the Assembly Public Safety Committee approved AB 2655, authored by Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson, to make it a misdemeanor for first responders to take unauthorized pictures during an accident or crime scene.

“No person, including our first responders, should ever take photos of a deceased person for their own personal gain,” said Asm. Mike Gipson. “I am grateful that the Assembly Public Safety Committee agrees and helped move this bill forward.”

Sponsored by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, AB 2655 will make it a misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines for a law enforcement official to photograph a deceased person unless required for an official investigation. 

"I was very pleased our bill cleared its first hurdle in the Legislature today as it seeks to address a significant deficiency in current law and brings peace of mind to the families of accident victims,” said LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. “I look forward to its continued success through the process."

AB 2655 is now awaiting hearing before the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Background: A few days after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others, the Los Angeles Times reported that a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was showing gruesome photos taken at the scene of the tragedy to people in a bar.  The Sheriff’s Department later determined that eight officers were ultimately involved in taking or obtaining photos from the scene.

First responders like police and coroners have special access to the scenes of accidents and other deadly incidents by virtue of their public employment. While these employees have many legitimate reasons to capture images of a scene, obtaining photos for purely personal purposes exceeds the scope of employment.