E-Net News

Provision in budget bill would affect mug shots as public records

A provision in the budget bill would require records seekers asking for booking photographs to affirmatively state their intent for the photograph. The bill would make it a crime to publish mug shot photos for publishers that demand money before taking them down. It also would require publishers to remove or retract the photographs and any descriptions of an arrest if the charges are dropped or the person is acquitted. 

Section 18B.10 of SB 744, which is the annual budget bill, includes several provisions affecting public records mostly aimed at how booking photographs - taken at the time a person is arrested - are used.

First, the provision would require records seekers who are asking for mug shots to provide an affirmative written statement that they do not intend to publish the photograph on the Internet and will only remove it in exchange for a fee. That provision is in contrast with the public records law, which does not require a records seeker to explain his or her purpose. 

Second, the provision would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor to falsely state the purpose a records seeker has in seeking the photographs. 

Third, the provision would set limits on how Internet and print publishers could use information about an arrest, including the booking photographs. It would create civil penalties for refusing to retract or remove from the public view descriptions of the person arrested, including his or her name, age, address and photograph, as well as the charges filed, if the charges are later dropped or the person is acquitted. The person charged would be responsible for notifying the publication, which would then have 15 days to remove it. This provision is in contrast to U.S. Supreme Court decisions that, under the First Amendment, truthful reporting of matters in the public record cannot be subject to punishment.  

Read WRAL's coverage here

Jonathan Jones,
6/2/2014 2:50 PM