There’s now only one US state where mug shots aren’t public records

In a 53-14 vote that took place days ago, South Dakota’s legislative House passed legislation that makes arrest booking photos public records. The measure, which cleared the state’s Senate in January, will be signed by Governor Dennis Daugaard.

With that signature on Senate Bill 25, (PDF) South Dakota becomes the 49th state requiring mug shots to be public records. The only other state in the union where they’re not public records is Louisiana.

The South Dakota measure is certain to provide fresh material for the online mug shot business racket. These questionable sites post mug shots, often in a bid to embarrass people in hopes of getting them to pay hundreds of dollars to have their photos removed. The exposé I did on this for Wired found that some mug shot site operators had a symbiotic relationship with reputation management firms that charge for mug shot removals.

That said, South Dakota’s attorney general, Marty Jackley, hailed the legislation, which was supported by the South Dakota Newspaper Association.

“The release of criminal booking photographs to the public will result in greater transparency in the criminal process, enhance public safety, and will further assist the media and the public in the proper identification of individuals in the criminal process,” he said.

The law allows for the release of mug shots, even including those of minors, for those arrested for various felonies. The law also allows agencies to refuse to hand over booking photos that are more than six months old. Agencies are entitled to recover costs “to provide or reproduce” mug shots.

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