Mugshots are used as a photo to keep a record of individuals who’ve been arrested. But what if those photos weren’t made public until after the suspect has been convicted?
House Bill 1296 would do just that. In most cases, this bill would make jail mugshots confidential in North Dakota.
State Representative Shannon Roers Jones says, “A lot of times what ends up happening is these photos end up on social media or internet websites where they can’t be pulled back even when charges are dropped or people plead down to a lesser charge.”
The Republican representative says she introduced this bill to prevent the collateral damage a mugshot could have on a person’s reputation if not convicted.
Roers Jones explains, “This bill balances individual rights of privacy and the public’s right to information collected by government employees.”
The bill includes some exceptions. For example, if the accused is a fugitive from justice, fails to appear for court, or once they’re convicted for the offense. In those cases, photos would be made public.
F5 Project Director, Adam Martin says there are collateral consequences of having a mugshot.
Martin says, “It’s a statement of guilt that lives for the rest of your life. Because the internet lives forever. And we didn’t have this issue back before the internet. The most collateral damage that a person would have was they’d make it to the local newspaper.”
But Jack McDonald, council and lobbyist for the North Dakota Newspaper Association and Broadcasters Association, argues the photos complete a story.
McDonald explains, “There is no data to show that it wants it to sell the story.. they just think it makes a better story. and a more complete story if you have the picture.”
As of right now, law enforcement agencies are using their own social medias and databases to post photos of the accused. Representative Roers Jones suggested the use of RELX, a facial recognition technology used to compile all presumptive criminal information, photos included, into one database for the state.
Roers Jones says, “Law enforcement could share with other law enforcement or entities that work on behalf of law enforcement. So we proposed that amendment and actually the committee did just take that up and add that to the bill.”
At the end of the hearing that took place on Monday, there was no vote but, KX News will keep you posted on when that does happen.
This bill wasn’t introduced by members of just one party. Six Republicans and three Democrats put their names on the bill.