Jail Mugshot Bill Passes House in North Carolina

House legislators passed last week a bill to remove jail mugshots of people who have not been convicted of the crimes they were arrested for if they are not convicted.

Rep. Joe John, D-Wake, one of the sponsors for House Bill 878 said that the bill was intended to help those found not guilty or whose charges were dismissed remove their jail booking pictures from private, profit-making companies who publish the mugshots, and then charge thousands of dollars to remove them.

John said, “Under House Bill 78, the company is required to remove the photo within 7 days of receiving a request for it, along with documentation of disposition of the charge.”

Publication of jail booking photos online can have serious consequences for people, even after they are released. It could affect their housing or employment prospects. John’s bill aims to protect people who have not been convicted from the collateral effects of being in jail.

The proposal is not the same as a ban on police releasing mugshots. This was a more comprehensive measure that would have reduced the distribution of mugshots for all people, not just those who were ultimately found innocent. John’s bill only applies to private for-profit companies and provides a mechanism to remove a mugshot when an individual has been found not guilty or their charges have been dismissed.

The bill’s text states law enforcement agencies are not allowed to distribute mugshots to for-profit businesses but can post them on their website or via a mobile app like Twitter.

John said this was not the first time this proposal was introduced. He said there were provisions in past bills that imposed “certain duties” on law enforcement agencies. However, they were removed from this year’s proposal, and the NC Chiefs of Police now support it. He said that the Sheriffs‘ Association had not taken a stance.

The bill was passed unanimously by the House, 117-0. The proposal has now been approved by one chamber, before the crossover deadline. It is now with the Senate Rules Committee.