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.