SALEM, Ore. — Democrats in the Oregon Senate carried a bill on Wednesday that would restrict the availability of law enforcement booking photos — colloquially known as "mug shots" — which supporters say complements another bill intended to fight back against doxing.
Doxing is an increasingly common practice in the internet era that involves the release and spread of an individual's private information (even if that information is publicly available, but not widely so), often resulting in a deluge of harassment or threats. House Bill 3047, which passed earlier this week, provides victims of doxing with the ability to seek civil recourse in court.
House Bill 3273, on the other hand, specifically governs the distribution of booking photos, which are currently easy to obtain through most local law enforcement agencies.
Under the bill, law enforcement can only release booking photos under certain circumstances — directly to the person who was booked, to another law enforcement agency, to the public if it will assist with the arrest of a suspect, or in an attempt to identify other suspected crimes.
Police could also share these photos with the state mental hospital if the defendant is admitted, share them with the victim of the crime, or release them if the suspect is convicted for the crime.
“A photo can ruin your life,” said Senator James I. Manning Jr., who co-carried HB 3273 and is a former a law enforcement officer. “Disproportionately, those who are picked up by law enforcement are BIPOC Oregonians, folks who look like me. One photo should not determine your future. In addition, we’ve seen booking photos used to harass and intimidate individuals who have been exercising their right to peacefully assemble in the name of racial justice and it’s impacted their employment and their ability to exist and move freely in their communities.”
The bill also targets certain "publish-for-pay" publications that charge people to have their booking photos taken down. HB 3273 requires that these publishers charge no more than $50, and allows the person to file a civil suit for failure to remove the image.
“These booking photos end up on predatory websites long before an individual is convicted of a crime and have even been used to extort money from innocent individuals,” said Senator Floyd Prozanski who co-carried the bill. “Time and again we have seen these photos distributed to cause harm and create bias against individuals. These photos can be important for law enforcement, but they shouldn’t harm one’s opportunity to succeed and contribute to their community."
Senate Democrats passed the bill over the objection of Republicans, who offered an alternative in their minority report. The Republican counter-proposal would have required law enforcement agencies to wait seven days before releasing a booking photo. In that time, the defendant could file a petition in court to have the photo suppressed.
Having passed both chambers of the legislature, HB 3273 heads to Governor Brown's desk for her signature.