Bill limiting public access to mug shots passes Utah Senate

FILE PHOTO

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Senate has unanimously voted in favor of a bill that would ban police from releasing mug shots until a person has been convicted of a crime.

The measure that passed Wednesday after being proposed 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.

The bill would allow the photos to be released if a suspect is an “imminent threat” or a wanted fugitive. Florida, Delaware and North Dakota introduced similar measures this year after Illinois passed one in 2020.

Criminal justice reformers say the use of mug shots perpetuates an unfair association between people of color — who historically are arrested at higher rates — and crime.

But some members of the news media, which often fights for access to public records, have opposed the effort, arguing that the photos can serve as a check on law enforcement and the decision to publish mug shots should be left to news outlets.

The Utah bill needs one final procedural vote in the Senate before moving to the governor’s desk.

The Associated Press is a member of the Utah Media Coalition, which has raised objections to the mug shot proposal.

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Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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