In A Flash

Louisiana House votes to prohibit release of most mug shots before conviction

By: - April 5, 2022 6:34 pm
Royce Duplessis

Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans (Madeline Meyer/LSU Manship School News Service)

The Louisiana House of Representatives voted 75-21 Tuesday to ban the release of almost all police mug shots until a person is convicted of a crime. If approved, the proposed restriction could impact the way media reports on arrests throughout the state.

House Bill 729, sponsored by Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, would remove most photographs law enforcement takes after a person is arrested and during their booking into a correctional facility from the public record. This would mean mug shots would typically no longer accompany news stories about arrests.

The Senate will now take up the legislation, which the Louisiana Press Association opposes. Utah and Illinois have already enacted similar laws.

Duplessis said mug shots have historically been used to shame people who get arrested. They leave the public with the impression that a person featured is a criminal, even though they haven’t been convicted of a crime yet.

“We are entitled to a presumption of innocence,” Duplessis said Tuesday. “Many people are arrested. Not everyone is convicted.” 

Under the legislation, police would have some discretion to release mug shots of arrestees or suspects if they are fugitives or present an “imminent threat” to the public. A court could also order the release of a mug shot photo.   

The bill also has some specific restrictions aimed at websites that require someone to pay to have their mug shot removed. The sites have cropped up around the country and often publish hundreds of mug shots. Critics liken the practice to extortion. 

Duplessis’ legislation has drawn support from several civil rights organizations,  including the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, and groups that work with formerly incarcerated people.

Some media organizations have already moved away from using mug shots. Newspapers across the country have announced in recent years that they will no longer run mug shots alongside stories about arrests.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.