SALT LAKE CITY — Under a bill passed by the Utah Senate, the mugshots of suspects booked into jail — not convicted of any crime — would be hidden from publication and public view.
HB228, sponsored by Republican Rep. Keven Stratton, states photos taken by police after someone is arrested would become a protected record. Police couldn’t share them with the public or media unless that person is convicted or a judge orders their release. A mugshot could also be released if a suspect poses an “imminent threat” or is a wanted fugitive sought by police.
The Utah Senate voted unanimously approved the bill on Feb. 24, 2021.
Dave & Debbie talk about mugshots
Molly Davis of the Libertas Utah — a non-profit “think tank” and educational organization — joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss the bill, which her group also supports.
“We think it’s good policy to keep mugshots private because of the permanent damage they can do to an individual before they’re even convicted of a crime,” said Davis.
“Does it open up a can of worms . . . where people will just be snagging photos from social media sites?” Dave asked. “So, for example, if we have a name and you start trying to pull these pictures off Facebook or Instagram.”
“If news wants to cover a story about somebody, then why not find a photo from social media? Why not find a better photo of someone, rather than using a mugshot. . . . under this bill, they’ll probably have to resort to that,” Davis said.
Murder case of MacKenzie Lueck
Debbie mentioned the case of 23-year-old University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck who went missing in 2019. The man who murdered her, Ayoola Ajayi, pleaded guilty in October 2020 to her murder and will spend life in prison without parole.
Under HB228, “This man [Ajayi] will be protected from being seen. And what was widely publicized as a massive search for her [Lueck] and the potential for other victims to be out there, his mugshot doesn’t show up on the news. Libertas Institute is OK with that?” Debbie asked.
“No, that’s where you’re actually wrong. There is a caveat in the bill that allows individuals who are an imminent threat to . . . public safety for their mugshot to be released,” Davis said.
The bill does not specify what criteria would determine if an individual is a threat to public safety.
“[The bill] doesn’t say anything about using a prior mugshot . . . We’re talking about a category of individuals here who have not yet been convicted,” Davis added.
Under the bill, she added there is an exception for a judge to be able to release and disseminate a mugshot as well.
Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.
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