The Fadeout of Police Mug Shots

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A handful of states in the U.S. have proposed measures that limit or ban the use of mug shots that are often made public, a fact that some legal experts say can undermine the presumption of innocence, perpetuate racial stereotypes and leave an indelible stain on a person’s life, reports the Associated Press. Some news media, which often resists limiting access to public records, have opposed the efforts, arguing that the photos can serve as a check on law enforcement and the decision to print mug shots should be left to news outlets. In Utah, lawmakers are considering a measure that would ban police from releasing mug shots to the public or media until a person has been convicted of a crime. The proposal by GOP Rep. Keven Stratton aims to make mug shots a private record to limit their impact on people’s lives — especially for those who are falsely accused or never found guilty. His bill passed the Utah House last week, is moving to the Senate, and would carve some exceptions for when a mug shot can be released before a conviction: if a judge orders it or if the suspect is an “imminent threat” or a wanted fugitive.

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