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Utah Senate approves bill banning the release of mug shots until someone is convicted of a crime

The bill’s Senate sponsor says the measure ‘protects the innocent until proven guilty.’

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) This March 30, 2020, file photo shows the Oxbow Jail in Salt Lake County. Under a bill approved by the Utah Senate on Wednesday, police would be banned from releasing mug shots until a person has been convicted of a crime.

The Utah Senate voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of a bill that would ban police from publicly releasing mug shots until a person has been convicted of a crime.

Under HB228, photos taken by police after someone is arrested would become a protected record, and police couldn’t share them with the public or media unless that person is convicted or a judge orders their release. A mug shot could also be released if a suspect poses an “imminent threat” or is a wanted fugitive that police are seeking.

“This is a great policy that protects the innocent until proven guilty,” said Sen. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine and the bill’s sponsor, as he encouraged his fellow lawmakers to imagine an allegation was lodged against them and that they were ultimately found innocent but their jail booking photo had already been splashed across the internet.

The bill, which previously passed through the House with a 69-1 vote, has received the backing of Black Lives Matter Utah and others who said that, historically, mug shots of people of color have been published disproportionately on news websites.

Members of Utah’s Media Coalition, which includes The Salt Lake Tribune, spoke in opposition to the bill during a public hearing earlier this month, arguing that the journalism industry is capable of regulating itself and doesn’t publish every mug shot unless it’s in the public’s interest.

HB228 needs one final procedural vote in the Senate before moving to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.

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