BATON ROUGE--The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced a bill Wednesday that would limit the publication of mugshots unless an individual is convicted, deemed a threat, or a fugitive.
The bill, House Bill 729, was authored by Rep. Royce Duplessis, D- New Orleans, and the House voted 76-21 to approve it last month.
Duplessis, a criminal defense and civil litigation lawyer, authored the bill to protect the reputation of individuals who have not yet been convicted of a crime. It would limit the public release of mugshots by law enforcement and enable people to get their booking photos removed from websites without paying them for that.
“In 2022, with all of the websites and all of the abilities to share photographs, once these mugshots are released, it’s literally a digital scarlet letter that follows you around for the rest of your life,” Duplessis said.
Under the bill, law enforcement officers may not “publish, release, or disseminate in any format a booking photograph to the public or to a private person or entity” unless the individual is a fugitive, a threat or convicted of a crime or if a judge decides it is necessary.
If Louisiana residents are acquitted, expunged, vacated, or pardoned, they may request that their booking photos be removed from “remove-for-pay” publications or websites. Those entities then would have seven business days to comply.
These sites, which operate nationally, typically require payment to remove the photos. But under this bill, payment would not be allowed.
During the hearing, two sets of amendments were made to the bill.
The most notable one removed video footage from being included in the bill.
The second set of amendments added an exception for crimes of violence based on a statute that lists 55 offenses, including murder, rape, armed robbery and stalking.
The latter created debate about whether stalking rose to the level of the other crimes for which mugshots could be released. It was noted this amendment would be changed on the floor to remove stalking from the bill.
This amendment also said that guilty pleas and no contest pleas would be included within the exceptions, allowing law-enforcement to publish those mugshots just as they would for people convicted by judges or juries.
These changes eased concerns by newspapers and television news outlets, which often publish police mugshots.
Several individuals came in opposition but opted not to speak due to time constraints.
Only two individuals spoke in support of the bill, Glenn Foster Sr. and Sabrina Foster. They are the parents of the late Glenn Foster Jr., a former New Orleans Saints player who died last December in police custody in Alabama after allegedly speeding and eluding police.
His parents said the last image that his four children saw of him was his mugshot.