State Senate proposes bill to restrict releasing mugshots to the public before a conviction

Published 05/16 2014 10:47PM

Updated 05/16 2014 11:00PM

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - The State Senate has introduced a bill that would make mugshots taken at the time of a person’s arrest no longer available to the public until that person has been convicted.

Even if a person is acquitted, the mugshot can still circulate online for years. Some people argue a mugshot can change the outcome of a case.

"Viewing someone’s photograph after the fact, sometimes months after the fact, there’s a danger of them identifying in court the person whose photograph they saw instead of the person who actually committed the offense," said attorney Donald Kelly with Tully Rinckey PLLC.

Innocent or guilty, once a photo hits the web, it can be saved by nearly anyone with access to a computer.

Some police agencies say a bill to keep mug shots out of the public may not be such a good thing.

"I’m always concerned when government restricts access to things and restricting access to a photo that is public record is a little bit concerning," said Deputy Chief John Balloni with the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office.

The bill would have an exception, allowing police to release a mugshot to the public before a conviction in cases where they need assistance locating a person.

“It’s would change the way law enforcement does business in terms of press releases and things of that nature," Balloni said.

While mugshots are not proof of a conviction, some lawyers say they can hold power if they get into the hands of a future employer.

"Everyone looks guilty when they’re up against a wall holding a number in front of them," Kelly said. "Some times the charges are dismissed because they never had any merit and that person’s mugshot is shown on the internet and is available for everyone to see."

A copy of the bill is available online.

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