On the heels of the arrest of four suspects in the kidnapping and beating of a mentally disabled man in Chicago, portions of which were broadcast live on social media, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora announced his intention to introduce legislation that would criminalize the live-streaming or distribution of footage of a violent crime by a perpetrator.
“The multiple heinous elements of this crime notwithstanding, live-streaming a crime should carry hefty penalties,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Anyone who is connected with those individuals on social media could have been unwittingly exposed, and frankly, if a criminal is sharing footage like that as a means of gloating, or for their own perverse pleasures, they should be punished.”
Gusciora’s proposal aims to discourage perpetrators from sharing video of their crimes online, while preserving the First Amendment rights and integrity of innocent bystanders who may film such incidents for use as evidence in a criminal case.
“It’s important that any proposal like this distinguish between good and bad actors,” added Gusciora. “Footage taken by an independent bystander or distributed by the press can be a valuable tool to help apprehend a perpetrator and enable the justice system to pursue aggressive punishments against them, but the act of distributing it by the criminals themselves should represent an additional charge with additional punishments.”
The proposed legislation would make the broadcast or distribution of footage of criminal activity by the perpetrator a fourth degree crime, carrying potential penalties of up to 18 months in prison, a $10,000 fine, or a combination of both.
Gusciora plans to introduce the bill when the Assembly is in session next week.