La. bill that could prohibit the release of most mugshots draws mixed reactions

The conversation around mugshots has become controversial, and there's a new bill in motion that could address it.
Published: May. 3, 2022 at 11:01 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - There’s a bill in motion that could keep someone’s mugshot private until they’re convicted.

Rep. Royce Duplessis said releasing mugshots of people before they have been found guilty of a crime is unfair and does not serve any purpose.

The bill, known as HB 729, passed the Louisiana House of Representatives and is now heading to the Senate.

“What is the ultimate purpose of a mugshot? What’s the societal value of a mugshot,” Duplessis questioned.

Duplessis said the bill does not completely ban mugshots, but it would limit them. There are some special provisions that would allow the release of a mugshot that would include a wanted fugitive or if someone is considered a danger to others.

Duplessis believes outside of those circumstances that a mugshot holds no social value.

“In America, we are entitled to the presumption of innocence, but a mugshot flies in the face of the presumption of innocence,” Duplessis said.

“In the digital age, these mugshots follow you around for the rest of your life, so even if you’re not convicted of the crime, or if charges get dropped, or if you get a not guilty verdict, that mugshot is still with you for who knows how long,” Peter Robins Brown, executive director at Louisiana Progress said.

Duplessis said this will affect the way news outlets report on crime. He argued you do not need a mugshot to tell a story, but some media members disagree.

“Does a picture tell a thousand words? Because it does,” said Scott Sternberg.

Scott Sternberg is an attorney and represents Louisiana and Mississippi tv stations under Gray Media, which is WAFB’s parent company. Sternberg argued those photos are considered public record and helps put a visual face on crime.

“People will see the mugshot and will say, I see that person, or I have information about that person, or God forbid, that person assaulted me in college, but I didn’t know his name. Now someone can see their mugshot and knows exactly what that person looks like and could help in the prosecution,” Sternberg said.

Sternberg said he agrees with the concept of the bill, but he believes it should remain the media’s choice whether they want to publish a mugshot or not.

“That should be their decision, not the government,” Sternberg said.

“We’re forcing media to look at its own practices and media has to answer the tough questions as to why are they so committed to having to publish mugshots? What is the purpose,” Duplessis questioned.

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