Illinois state Rep. La Shawn Ford wants to bar law enforcement agencies from releasing photos of people who have been arrested for low-level crimes until after a conviction. Ford says having a mug shot posted and shared on social media can ruin a person's life long before a judge or jury settles the matter.
The Chicago Democrat's new bill would require a conviction before law enforcement agencies could release a person's jail booking or arrest photo. He said the repercussions of having a mugshot posted online can be more severe than the punishment for a crime, like getting turned down for employment years later, regardless of if the charge was later dropped.
“They make decisions based on those internet discoveries,” Ford said. “Meanwhile, for-profit institutions parade mug shots of innocent people on websites and newspapers all over.”
Specifically, the bill would apply to low-level charges such as petty or business offenses and Class B or C misdemeanors.
Class A misdemeanors – such drunken driving and assault – and felonies would not have the same restrictions.
Ford is one of the 21 candidates running for mayor in Chicago.
A Cook County woman, who agreed to share her story on the condition that her name not be used because of employment concerns, said that her life was turned upside down after she was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. She said the charge was later dismissed, but not before her mug shot was posted online and became a top search result for her unique name.
“As soon as you Google my name, it’s right there,” she said. “It’s been awful, bad on my self esteem. My name bothers me.”
The bill also contains provisions against for-profit websites posting mug shots of people who are able to prove that they weren’t convicted of the crime, changing the fine from $100 a day to $1,000. That money would go into the Illinois General Revenue Fund.
Considering there are only a couple of days left in the current 100th General Assembly, it’s unlikely that Ford would get his bill to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk, but he could reintroduce the bill after Jan. 7, the first day of the new session.