Bill Would Ban Release of Mug Shots in Florida

When you're arrested in Florida your mug shots gets splashed across the internet in a matter of days. That's because Florida police agencies and sheriff's departments release the photos online in compliance with Florida's progressive public record laws. Though, in recent years several commercial websites have popped up that keep those mug shots up online in perpetuity unless the suspect agrees to pay a heavy fee to have them taken down.

Well, a new bill in the Florida House that originally made it a crime to profit off of mug shots and arrest records in such a way has now been rewritten to completely ban police and correctional facilities from releasing the photos in the first place.

See also: Could Florida's Mugshot Industry Be Coming to an End?

Miami-Dade Republican Carlos Trujilo filed the bill, HB 265, last November. Originally it made "publishing or otherwise disseminating criminal record information from soliciting or accepting payment of a fee or other consideration to remove, correct, or modify such information," a first-degree misdemeanor.

Now the bill has been amended to mandate that "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."

Mug shots of those not yet convicted could only be made public if media outlets specifically file a public records request for them. That might have the unintended consequence of slowing down news in today's 24/7 media cycle.

The Criminal Justice Subcommittee discussed the bill yesterday. Incidentally the subcommittee's chairman Rep. Matt Gaetz (R- Ft. Walton Beach) was arrested for a DUI back in 2008.

"If anyone Googles my name," Gaetz said according to the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau, "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."

Regardless, the bill still received unanimous approval from the subcommittee and will move forward with the new amendment attached. The bill is also slated for discussion in the Judiciary Committee and the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

The Senate version of the bill currently does not include the total ban of publishing mug shots. Unlike the House version it includes a provision that would allow mug shot subjects to file a court actions to get commercial websites to take the photo down without having to pay any fees.

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