SACRAMENTO, CA —On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assemblymember Evan Low’s bill AB 1475 to stop California law enforcement agencies from posting the mugshots of nonviolent suspects on social media.
The law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, and prevent police and sheriff’s departments from posting the booking photos of suspects accused of nonviolent crimes on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, NextDoor and others. Exemptions would be made for cases where a suspect is a fugitive, or a judge agrees that the publication of a photo would serve a legitimate public safety interest.
“Social media has revolutionized the manner and speed in which we relay information, but the sharing of mugshots by official agencies can have devastating consequences for people accused of nonviolent offenses,” said Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley). “Over the years we’ve seen mugshots weaponized as a way of public shaming, which can result in people wrongly accused of crimes becoming subjected to harassment campaigns. Studies have also found that these photos reinforce harmful racial stereotypes. I want to thank Governor Newsom for signing this important piece of legislation, which had unanimous support throughout the process.”
AB 1475 will provide relief for people who have been accused of a nonviolent crime and had their mugshot posted to social media. Californians who are cleared of charges will receive a clean slate and a fair chance at employment opportunities. Furthermore, the bill provides for the removal of mugshots for suspects accused of violent crimes if that person was ultimately found not guilty or not charged.
“Mugshot posting on social media demonizes and shames individuals who have yet to be found guilty of any crime and can harm their loved ones,” said Esteban Nuñez, Director of Advocacy and Community Organizing at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). “It does not reflect the professionalism, rehabilitation, and the presumption of innocence that our justice system strives to embody. We are grateful AB 1475 will become law and reduce the practice of mugshot posting while also allowing those who have had their records expunged the opportunity to remove the social media imprint of their mugshot.”
AB 1475 received bipartisan support as it moved through the California Legislature, and the Illinois state Legislature passed a similar law in 2018. Earlier this year, Utah’s Legislature passed a law banning the release of all mugshots until a person is convicted of a crime.
“AB 1475 will help free innocent individuals from fear that a simple website search will dredge up inaccurate past information that will destroy their employment opportunities,” said Margo George, Co-Chair of the California Public Defenders Association’s Legislative Committee.
Evan Low represents Silicon Valley in the California State Assembly. He was elected in 2014 after serving as a Councilmember and Mayor for the City of Campbell. Assemblymember Low now serves as the Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and Chair of the state’s Business and Professions Committee. He also serves as co-Chair of the California Legislative Technology & Innovation Caucus and Vice Chair of the Asian & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus.