SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Law enforcement agencies in the ArkLaTex are preparing to change how they release suspect information once a new law goes into effect next week.
Gov. Edwards signed House Bill 729 on Thursday, making it Act 494. The Louisiana Legislature passed the “mugshot bill” on June 7, restricting the release of mugshots and photographs of arrested individuals except in certain circumstances.
Act 494 restricts law enforcement agencies from publishing booking photos to the public and media for most offenses. There are exceptions for certain violent crimes.
“After the Governor’s signature, all law enforcement agencies in the state will be expected to comply with this new bill immediately,” said Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington. “But there are exceptions that are written into the bill for certain violent offenses, and we will publish those.”
According to the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office, they will continue to release the suspect’s names, charges, and other information related to the offense.
In a statement Friday, Natchitoches Parish Sheriff Stuart Wright said, “Our goal has always been to keep the community informed and aware of criminal arrests made by our agency, rather it be by your tips, detectives investigating crimes, or patrol responding to and enforcing laws across the parish.”
HB 729 allows for the release of mugshots if the individual is charged with a violent crime other than stalking or charges include crimes against vulnerable populations, including:
- Sex offenses
- Human trafficking offenses
- Offenses affecting the health and morals of minors
- Offenses affecting the health and safety of persons with infirmities
- Video voyeurism
- Cruelty of Animals
Other exceptions that allow for the release of a mugshot include:
- A court order to release a photo if there is a “legitimate interest” in its release.
- A suspect is considered an imminent threat to public safety or an individual, and the photo helps reduce the threat.
- A suspect is a fugitive, and the agency determines releasing the photo will assist in apprehending them.
Author of the bill, Rep. Royce Duplessis, D- New Orleans, says that the availability and permanency of information on the internet make the bill necessary.
“In 2022, with all of the websites and all of the abilities to share photographs, once these mugshots are released, it’s literally a digital scarlet letter that follows you around for the rest of your life.”