BATON ROUGE, La. (WGNO) — The “Mugshot Bill” is officially in effect in Louisiana after being signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards. Formerly HB729, Act No. 494 places restrictions on the release and use of jail booking photographs.
The new law, passed by the Louisiana Legislature earlier in the month, restricts law enforcement agencies from publishing booking photos to the public and media for most offenses. There are, however, exceptions for certain violent crimes.
The law reads:
“No law enforcement officer or agency shall publish, release, or disseminate in any format a booking photograph to the public or to a private person or entity unless any of the following occurs:
(a) The individual is a fugitive, and a law enforcement officer or agency determines that releasing or disseminating the booking photograph will assist in apprehending the individual.
(b) A law enforcement officer or agency determines that the individual is an imminent threat to an individual or to public safety and determines that releasing or disseminating the booking photograph will assist in reducing or eliminating the threat.
(c) A judge of a court of competent jurisdiction orders the release or dissemination of the booking photograph based on a finding that the release or dissemination is in furtherance of a legitimate interest.
(d) The individual is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a crime, lesser crime, or lesser included offense as defined in Article 558 in response to the same crime for which he was arrested or if there is criminal litigation related to the same crime that is pending or reasonably anticipated.
Additionally, a photo may be released if the suspect is charged with a crime of violence or with any of the following offenses:
- 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 to animals
The law also requires a disclaimer on any booking photographs published, released, or disseminated by a law enforcement officer or agency, if shared before the suspect has been found guilty, or pleading guilty or nolo contendere.
The disclaimer must state that “all persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
Act No. 494 took effect on June 21 and now, law enforcement agencies across Louisiana are in the process of changing how they share suspect information with the public. Mugshots and booking photographs may rarely be seen on social media going forward, and news stations will be forced to find other ways to get the info to their viewers.
The St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office took to social media to announce its plans. According to the post, “Due to recent legislation approved by the Louisiana Legislature, specifically House Bill No. 729, the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office is prohibited from publishing booking photographs, “mugshots” when an individual is arrested. This legislation applies to photographs linked to our website under “Parish Prison Inmates” and photographs published on social media outlets. St. James Sheriff’s Office will continue to publish news articles, including on social media.”
WGNO reached out to several local law enforcement agencies for a comment on the new law, but has not received any responses yet.