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New Law Puts Connecticut In The Minority On Disclosure

by Hugh McQuaid | Oct 4, 2013 12:52pm
(4) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Legal

Courtesy of BayAreaCrimeSceneCleanUp.com

Connecticut is one of nine states with a law specifically restricting the public disclosure of crime scene photos, according to a 50-state survey conducted by the Office of Legislative Research.

Over the past few weeks the legislature’s research staff has been compiling reports for a task force convened by lawmakers to weigh the privacy of crime victims against the public’s right to know under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

The panel was created by a law that carved out new disclosure restrictions on the release of some law enforcement records pertaining to homicide victims and victims who are children. Lawmakers passed the statute after families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting appealed to the legislature to stop the release of records pertaining to the Dec. 14 incident.

The new law puts Connecticut among a minority of states with a statute on the books explicitly restricting public access for pictures taken at crime scenes, according to a survey by the research office.

Under the law passed in June, crime scene photos depicting a homicide victim are not required to be disclosed to the public if they are considered to be an invasion of the victims’ privacy or their family members.

Although the laws vary, California, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas have comparable statutes, the survey found.

Connecticut’s new law also exempts recorded interactions with emergency services personnel from disclosure.  Although 911 call recordings are still subject to disclosure, the statute can prevent the disclosure of portions of audio recordings during which a homicide victim is described. Currently, this portion of the law only applies to recordings made before the end of next year’s legislative session.

The Legislative Research Office found 15 other states with laws regarding the release of 911 recordings. Those laws in two states call for the recordings to be disclosed. In 10 states the laws prohibit the release of some or all of the recordings. Other states give the agency keeping the records some discretion over the release.

Laws limiting the release of autopsy records are more common. Researchers found 26 states with laws regarding the release of those records. In most of these states, the laws serve to restrict the disclosure of autopsy records.

Another recent report from the office sought to find states that have passed laws exempting certain information in the interest of personal privacy. Discounting common limitations like the disclosure of personal information in medical files, researchers found 11 states that have limited their Freedom of Information laws to protect privacy.

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(4) Comments

posted by: Noteworthy | October 4, 2013  4:04pm

Two words: Who cares?

As a citizen, I don’t care what other states are doing. I care what we do in this state. To use one tragic incident as a clarion call to roll back freedom of information by cutting back room deals by people who don’t have the stones to do it in public, is wrong. We have an inherent right to know what government is doing in our name and with our money regardless of the circumstances. Secrecy only serves those in power.

Moreover - if what other states are doing is so damn great - then why is it the only time “leaders” in Connecticut play follow the leader is when it comes to rolling back our freedoms and taxing us more? There are plenty of states that are rolling back taxes, eliminating taxes on individuals and businesses among other things and shrinking the size of government, reducing debt. Somehow the Dome Dwellers always manage to ignore those actions.

posted by: dano860 | October 4, 2013  9:10pm

PATHETIC PANDERING to a select few.  This is capital punishment to the many for actions of the few.
What a sorry state we are!

posted by: Historian | October 5, 2013  3:15pm

I have no problem restricting photos of scenes of mayhem at a crime scene. Having personally been involved in a number of incidents involving humans killed by man and machine, I can think of no valid reason for their display except for training purposes.
  For those with a wish to visually witness such scenes I suggest a horror movie. Real life leaves fears and memories no one needs.

posted by: dano860 | October 7, 2013  10:35pm

Historian, I agree, the photo’s should be controlled and only shared for training purposes.
The 911 calls are what I want to have released. The calls from the Naval Yard and photo’s were released only days after the incident, what is different in Ct or Newtown for that matter?
Were there failures in the system? Screw ups by the first responders? This seems to be a cover-up law for the select few.