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The Crime Victims Images Bill

The NYCLU wrote a letter to Governor Hochul urging her to veto the Crime Victims Images Bill, S.7211/A.1121, which would criminalize the distribution of photographs of crime victims under certain circumstances. While the NYCLU recognizes the important privacy interests at stake, the law would violate the First Amendment. It would also pose a risk of severe unintended consequences to protesters, demonstrators, and activists.

The bill’s imprecise language and insufficient definitions practically invite arbitrary and abusive enforcement. By criminalizing the creation or distribution of any photo of someone who suffers a crime, the law would invite police officers to arrest anyone who photographs clashes between police and protesters on the theory that someone had been “victimized” in the fray.4 Indeed, the bill could be used by police to justify arresting anyone who photographs police at a crime scene if a crime victim were anywhere in the photo.

NYCLU understands the harms this bill seeks to prevent. The families and loved ones of crime victims deserve to mourn in peace and privacy. However, this bill’s vague proscriptions, and its failure to explicitly protect journalism and other photography in the public interest, render it too broad, open to abuse, and in any event, likely to be struck down. The NYCLU urges the Governor not to sign it into law.

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