BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Governor John Bel Edwards signed a law restricting police agencies from sharing mugshots on Tuesday, but the new legislation leaves some with lingering questions.
House Bill 729, commonly referred to as the “mugshot bill,” was passed by the Louisiana Legislature on June 7. The bill will restrict the release of booking photos of arrested individuals, except in certain circumstances.
The author of the bill, State Rep. Royce Duplessis said reputations can be ruined when mugshots are posted online.
“Mugshots are inherently prejudicial, you automatically look guilty regardless of whether you are charged, regardless if you are not convicted, but now in the digital age, you have a mugshot that’s out in the world, the world wide web — that will follow you around for the rest of your life like a digital scarlet letter,” Duplessis said.
The bill passed with bipartisan support, but some local law enforcement still has questions, including Ascension Parish Sheriff Bobby Webre.
“Your booking photo can be released on certain crimes, it can’t be released on other crimes and the Title 32 has hundreds of crimes in it, so it’s going to be very complicated,” Webre said.
Mugshots can be released if the arrest involves a violent crime, including sex offenses and human trafficking. But Webre isn’t taking any chances when sharing the photographs with the public.
“It’s difficult to do this and I am not going to rely on my correctional officers to try to figure these things out,” said Webre. “So we just decided to turn off the mugshot portion of our website until we can figure it out.”
Webre doesn’t shy away from saying how he feels about the new measure and hopes there could be changes in the future.
“I don’t like it, I don’t agree with the law so to speak, but look, it’s a law and we have to comply and later on maybe laws can be changed and maybe laws can be modified,” said Webre.
HB 729 allows for the release of mugshots if the individual is charged with a violent crime other than stalking or charges include crimes against vulnerable populations, including:
- Sex offenses
- Human trafficking offenses
- Offenses affecting the health and morals of minors
- Offenses affecting the health and safety of persons with infirmities
- Video voyeurism
- Cruelty of animals
Other exceptions that allow for the release of a mugshot include:
- A court order to release a photo if there is a “legitimate interest” in its release.
- A suspect is considered an imminent threat to public safety or an individual, and the photo helps reduce the threat.
- A suspect is a fugitive, and the agency determines releasing the photo will assist in apprehending them.