An Oregon law limiting the release of mugshots to the general public has gone into effect.
House Bill 3273 is intended to protect the safety of individuals who have not been convicted of a crime by preventing the release of booking photos before a conviction.
The law bars the distribution of mugshot images except under specific circumstances, such as if it will help in the arrest of a suspect. Police can also release the photos if the individual has been convicted of their crime.
If a publication violates the law by releasing photos, they can be subject to a $50 dollar fine and a civil lawsuit.
According to state Representative Janelle Bynum, many individuals arrested during the 2020 protests were doxed – or had their identity and private information published online – after booking photos were released. Bynum said that the release of mugshots can significantly harm a person’s ability to gain employment, attend school, or reintegrate into society.
“When law enforcement agencies were releasing booking photos, people were also suffering harm from that,” said Bynum, who sponsored the bill. “They were getting threats at their jobs, they were trapped inside of their homes because people were intimidating them.”
Bynum added that mugshots disproportionately affect people with mental health issues.
“One police chief said, it’s often the worst day of a person’s life. And we agreed as a group that those people were somebody’s somebody and we could do better as a community.”
Senator Floyd Prozanski agreed with Bynum.
“Time and again, we have seen these photos distributed to cause harm and create bias against individuals. These photos can be important for law enforcement, but they shouldn’t harm one’s opportunity to succeed and contribute to their community.”
Some have criticized the law as preventing the public and news publications access to information.
Tim Gleason, a professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, said he was concerned about the removal of public information but understood that the current system can be abused.
“That abuse is being attacked or addressed by denying all of us access to information that in some instances may be very important to you know to the general public to know,” Gleason said.
The law was passed with bipartisan support, and law enforcement groups helped craft the bill according to OPB.