NJ Bill Seeks to Ban Public Release of Mug Shots Before Conviction – Good Idea? [POLL]
One of the bigger stories in the papers over the weekend is the proposed bill to ban the public release of mug shots for anyone who’s been arrested but not convicted of a crime.
Supporters of the bill feel that the mug shot, while not indicative of guilt of an individual, would still brand that person for life if a search were to be done of them.
Those opposed say that mug shots are but one in a myriad of ways citizens get to identify someone who’s been arrested – aside from releasing other personal details of the accused. They'd contend that since other personal details of an arrest are released, then why not the mug shot as well.
But I wonder if a mug shot of you had to be taken; has it subsequently negatively impacted you?
Those arrested in New Jersey would be spared the embarrassing public release of their mugshot until they are convicted or plead guilty, under a bill advanced by a state Assembly panel.
The measure (A3906), approved 9-0 with one abstention by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, would amend the state's open public records act to make confidential the photographs of anyone arrested if they have not yet been convicted.
Sponsors of the legislation said it was intended to protect people's personal and professional reputations by preventing the release of the images, which are often posted to the Internet by the media or websites that gather and display mug shots.
Those images then live online in perpetuity, even if the charges against someone are dropped or if they are acquitted.
But Thomas Cafferty, general counsel for the New Jersey Press Association, told the panel it did not make sense to restrict mug shots from release when the law already requires myriad other details about someone who is arrested to be made public.
Cafferty said, "if you took that logic to its ultimate conclusion, one would say that, well, we ought to start closing court records, we ought to start closing criminal trials until we have a determination of guilt or innocence in a criminal trial."
He added that the photos often clarify for readers who have been arrested when people share the same name. He also said there is a longstanding legal expungement process for people to get rid of records when charges are dropped or they are acquitted.
Lawmakers on the panel, however, rejected the argument that a mugshot was critical to the public's understanding of an arrest.
"I think your testimony today was sensationalized and I don’t agree with it at all," the panel's chairman, Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-Hudson), said.
Currently, there exists no statewide standard or directive instructing law enforcement agencies on how to handle mugshots. For example, some county prosecutors do not release them, while the state Attorney General's Office routinely does release them.
The bill would not prevent law enforcement from releasing mugshots or other photographs to the public for informational purposes, such as to warn people of a threat or to help authorities locate someone.
Just on a whim, I had gone to one of the aforementioned websites to look up my own name – and lo and behold, there before me were a couple of guys with the same name as me who’d been arrested for various crimes.
God knows, there’s only one face like the one I’m wearing. Were someone to hear that Ray Rossi had been arrested for such and such, don’t you think they’d want to see a picture of him to affirm whether or not it’s the Ray they know?
With the vast number of people around the state who share names, I’m sure if there’s a report that someone with the same name as theirs had been arrested, they’d want a picture of that person posted.
However, if you’d been arrested before and either had charges dropped or had been acquitted and had a mug shot released – did you suffer any consequences because of it?
Do you feel the release of mug shots of persons arrested should be banned before conviction?