More passport photos? New Restraint Laws Take Effect in Louisiana, Government Signs Law No. 494 into Law

BATON ROUGE, La. (WGNO) — The “Mugshot Bill” is officially in effect in Louisiana after being signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards. Formerly HB729, Law No. 494 imposes restrictions on the publication and use of booking photographs, aka mugshots.

The new law, passed by the Louisiana Legislature earlier this month, prohibits law enforcement from releasing booking photos to the public and the media for most offenses. However, there are exceptions for certain violent crimes.

The law says:

“No law enforcement officer or agency shall publish, broadcast or otherwise broadcast in any format any booking photograph to the public or to any private person or entity unless one of the following events occurs:

(a) The individual is a fugitive, and a law enforcement officer or agency determines that publication or broadcast of the Booking Photo will assist in apprehending the individual.

(b) A law enforcement officer or agency determines that the individual poses an imminent threat to an individual or to public safety and determines that publication or dissemination of the Booking Photograph will contribute to the reduction or eliminate the threat.

(c) A judge of a competent court orders the publication or broadcast of the Booking Photo based on a finding that the publication or broadcast serves a legitimate interest.

(d) The individual is convicted or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a felony, lesser felony or lesser included misdemeanor as defined in section 558 in response to the same felony for which he was arrested or if there is criminal litigation related to the same crime that is pending or reasonably anticipated.

Additionally, a photo may be released if the suspect is charged with a violent crime or one of the following offences:

  • Sexual offenses
  • Human trafficking offenses
  • Offenses affecting the health and morals of minors
  • Offenses affecting the health and safety of people with disabilities
  • Voyeurism video
  • Animal cruelty
  • dog fight

The law also requires a disclaimer on any booking photograph posted, published or broadcast by any law enforcement officer or agency, if shared before the suspect is found guilty, or pleads guilty or nolo contendere.

The disclaimer must state that “everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty”.

Law #494 went into effect on June 21, and now Louisiana law enforcement is changing the way it shares suspicious information with the public. Mugshots and photo bookings may rarely be seen on social media in the future, and news stations will be forced to find other ways to convey the information to their viewers.

The St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office took to social media to announce its plans. According to the message, “Due to recent legislation approved by the Louisiana Legislature, specifically Bill 729, the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office is prohibited from releasing photographs of booking, “electronic photos” when an individual is arrested. This legislation applies to photographs linked on our website under “Parish Jail Inmates” and to photographs posted on social media. The St. James will continue to post press articles, including on social media.

The text of the law can be read in its entirety here.

WGNO has contacted several local law enforcement agencies for comment on the new law, but has yet to receive a response.

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