Louisiana lawmakers consider banning the release of mugshots except when seeking fugitives
Louisiana House Bill 729, proposed by state Rep. Royce Duplessis, passed with bipartisan support in a 75-21 vote.
Lawmakers in the state of Louisiana are considering a bill that will keep mugshots from being accessible by the public before people arrested have been convicted of a crime, except when they are being sought or fleeing capture.
House Bill 729 was proposed by state Rep. Royce Duplessis of New Orleans, according to The Advocate. “The spirit of this bill is we’re all presumed innocent,” Duplessis said. “Mugshots have become commonplace in society. But unfortunately, they’re prejudicial.”
He argued that mugshots have an inherently “prejudicial nature,” maintaining that for many, having them accessible to the public can result in job loss or other unearned penalties.
The bill passed with bipartisan support in a 75-21 vote. It will now proceed to the state Senate, where, if passed, it would go to the desk of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards to be signed into law.
The mugshot debate has occurred in several states and among news outlets. For many, the publication of mugshots has been a furtherance of racial stereotypes. The Louisiana Press Association opposes the legislation, saying it should be debated among the news media and not a legal mandate.
Rep. Duplessis noted that the federal government does not release mugshots of people charged with federal crimes. He added that he has gotten support from law enforcement agencies who told him the bill would not prevent them from effectively doing their job.
One opposing legislator, state Rep. Mike Johnson, a Republican of Pineville, argued that not releasing mugshots could be a threat to public safety. He and others in his party claimed that they too have heard from law enforcement, who told them posting and sharing mugshots results in more witnesses coming forward.
The Louisiana bill would also address “remove for pay” websites that charge people to scrub the internet of their mugshots. The bill would make that fee no more than $50 and add other restrictions for those businesses.
Addressing “remove for pay” has also been a frequent tool of other states that have passed similar restrictive legislation, including Georgia, Illinois and Texas, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
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