Florida lawmaker files bill that would ban release of arrest mug shots

February 12, 2014 

Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, wants to prevent sheriffs and police from releasing booking photos of people charged with crimes.

A House committee debate Wednesday prompted the panel's chairman, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, to bring up his own brush with mug-shot fame from a 2008 traffic stop that led to a DUI charge that was dropped by the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.

"If anyone Googles my name," Gaetz said during debate, "the first image that will appear is my mug shot from my arrest, and I'm of the view that that is part of who I am. I made bad decisions that resulted in an arrest, and that is sort of something that we all live with."

Under Trujillo's bill, no mug shots could be released by a city or county jail unless the suspect is convicted of a crime.

Media outlets would have to make public records requests for them (Florida newspapers and TV stations, including the Bradenton Herald, routinely publish police mug shots).

"That's a pretty drastic change," said Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, a former police officer.

Many people who are arrrested, booked and photographed are not convicted of crimes. The Legislature last year debated how to crack down on commercial web sites that publish booking photos and offer to remove them for money, or what Trujillo called a "shakedown." The new approach is to put those profit-making sites out of business by denying them access to mug shots.

Trujillo's revised bill (HB 265) won a unanimous vote in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. It says "a county or municipal detention facility may not electronically publish or disseminate an arrest booking photograph of any arrestee who is charged with but not yet convicted of a criminal offense."

Another provision notes that the bill is not intended to "restrict public access to records."

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