JACKSON (WNE) — In a world of rapid sharing online, the Wyoming Legislature is considering a bill that may protect those charged with a crime from the harsh court of public opinion.
State lawmakers heard testimony Monday on a proposed law that would prohibit the release of mug shots unless the person was convicted. The bill is being sponsored by Rep. Chad Banks, D-Rock Springs.
“This bill is not meant to disparage law enforcement or their efforts in any way,” Banks said when introducing the bill. “Citizens in my county are really concerned about this.”
The bill, HB 0051, would amend Wyoming Statute 7-19-106, which outlines the legal access to and the dissemination of criminal history records.
Banks testified on the motivation behind introducing his bill based on issues in his county.
“My county is not the only county where this happens, but we have three electronic news media sources, and their first post every morning about 6:30 or 7 a.m. is the mug shots of those folks arrested the day prior,” Banks said.
“And that, in my community, has become a huge source of rumor, of gossip, of water cooler fodder. And those mug shots stay around forever regardless if those people are ultimately charged, or if those charges are dropped,” he said.
The bill did cite exceptions under which mug shots could be released, such as if the individual in question is a fugitive with imminent threat to an individual or public safety, or to assist law enforcement in apprehending that individual.