California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill — prompted by the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others — on Monday that makes it illegal for first responders to take unauthorized photos of the dead at crime scenes.
Effective next year on Jan. 1, the legislation would make it a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine per violation, for a first responder to take a photo “for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose or a genuine public interest.”
The bill was prompted after deputies in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department took unauthorized photos of the deceased at the site of the Bryant helicopter crash in Calabasas that were later shared outside the context of the investigation, according to reports from the Los Angeles Times.
The photos are also at the heart of a recent lawsuit filed against the Sheriff and his department by Kobe’s widow Vanessa Bryant, who has contended the L.A. County Sheriff conducted a “cover-up” when he discovered that they had taken the photos and said they would not be disciplined if they deleted the photos.
“The Sheriff’s Department’s outrageous actions have caused Mrs. Bryant severe emotional distress and compounded the trauma of losing Kobe and Gianna,” Bryant’s lawsuit said. “Ms. Bryant feels ill at the thought of strangers gawking at images of her deceased husband and child, and she lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online.”
At the time, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department declined to comment on the matter due to the “pending legislation” but noted that the Sheriff sponsored the crime scene photo legislation that has now been signed into law.