In the 2021 regular session, the Oregon Legislative Assembly passed Oregon House Bill 3273, which prohibits law enforcement agencies from releasing booking photos, except in specified circumstances. Governor Brown signed HB 3273 into law on June 23, 2021, and the law went into effect on January 1, 2022. The purpose of the law was aimed at protecting those whose personal lives and reputations might be damaged by the publication of their mugshots in printed and online publications.
The spirit and the intent for which the law was created is actually something that we support. After all, a one-time brush with the law over a minor offence or a wrongful arrest that doesn’t lead to a conviction shouldn’t scar a person for life. The new law therefor prohibits the release of mugshots until a person has been convicted. This makes sense.
Conversely, the mugshots that we have posted for years have been useful for a plethora or reasons – especially by those who are most affected by crimes committed by repeat offenders (repeat offenders constitute roughly eighty percent of those arrested.) Law enforcement efforts are regularly aided by readers who spot suspects that have appeared in past articles. Knowing when offenders have been arrested or released is a useful tool for people whose lives are affected by the criminal element of society. In other instances, the information has helped the victims of crime (especially in the case of sex crimes) to identify their aggressor and in some cases can lead to other victims coming forward. In addition, mugshots help regional law enforcement in their own investigations. Our site in particular is often utilized by law enforcement because it is faster and easier to access than their own agency programs.
As January 2022 quickly approached, we worked to revise our programs to comply with the new law which also called for the expedient removal of past mugshots upon request. We have always worked to remove mugshots as quickly as possible but moving to a dynamic data-driven web site provided more agility. This adaptation also supplied the foundation for us to expand our outreach to include missing and wanted persons. You can read more about that here.
Our upgrades also present new opportunities to go beyond the requirements of the law by limiting the presentation of information in a way that would respect the essence of the law’s intent. For instance, first time offenders with misdemeanor charges could be withheld from displaying until a conviction or a subsequent arrest occurs. Or persons that are at-risk by having their arrest information published could be withheld from our public view while still being available for law enforcement purposes (we work with law enforcement on these types of situations already, but the process is manual.) We can also work to link up to other data resources and automatically remove mugshots of deceased individuals (also something that we do regularly, but also manually.) Additionally, we could expire arrest information from public view after a certain amount of time.
These are regular topics of conversation at LCM. Unlike typical mugshot sites, we don’t make money by extorting people for mugshot removals (we are funded solely by ad revenue, sponsors, and donations.) Informing the community is our primary purpose but we also want to do so with compassion and perhaps even understanding. We all make mistakes in life. When those mistakes are the exception instead of the norm), they shouldn’t follow a person forever. We will continue to refine and enhance our programs to reflect that principle.
Finding balance is important. The information does serve a useful purpose to many. It should be possible to still provide relevant information without creating lasting damaging affects to others. Ironically, several of our readers that support the practice of posting mugshots have also been people who have appeared in our articles. We’ve been told on several occasions that the mugshots created the motivation necessary for them to get their lives in order. Recently we were surprised to learn that a person who had been wrongly accused (and their charges subsequently dismissed) still advocating for mugshots for many of the previously described benefits.
In conclusion, our work has only just begun here, and more changes are on the way. In the meantime, we encourage those that might be affected by their online photos and arrest information to utilize our removal process found on our site. It’s fast, free, and generally without judgement.