Son of Sam Law History

The original Son of Sam Law was enacted in 1977, in response to community outrage at the possibility that David Berkowitz, a/k/a the "Son of Sam", who had terrorized New York City with a string of shootings that had left six people dead and seven others wounded, would sell his story to a publishing house for $ 75,000. In the original version of the law the notice requirement was only triggered when an entity contracted with the criminal for the details of his or her story. In Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. Members of the New York State Crime Victims Board, 502 U.S. 105 (1991), the United States Supreme Court struck down the Son of Sam statute finding that it violated the First Amendment since it "singled out income derived from expressive activity for a burden the State places on no other income, and it is directed only at works with a specific content" (id at 116). In striking down the statute, however, the court acknowledged that the State has a compelling interest in ensuring that victims of crime are compensated by those who harm them and that funds of criminals are not dissipated before their victims can recover for their injuries (id at 509-510). In 1992, the legislature passed a new version of the law which recognized that interest, but avoided the prior law's first amendment infirmities by targeting all profits of a crime, rather than solely specified speech. In 2001, the statute was amended to include not only profits from the crime, but to money received by the imprisoned criminal from any source. The current statute has thus far survived constitutional challenges (see Snuszki v. Wright, 193 Misc. 2d 490, 751 NYS2d 344 [2002], aff'd 1 A.D.3d 879, 767 N.Y.S.2d 749 [2003]; New York State Crime Victims Board v. Majid, 193 Misc. 2d 710, 749 NYS2d 837 [2002]).