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27 January 2014

Georgia Legislators Want to Keep Their Mugshots Hidden from the Public

(State Senator Don Balfour [top] and state Representative Chuck Sims [bottom] were both arrested within the past twelve months, photographed, and booked into jail.)
Former President Richard Nixon once famously said, "People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook."

In the past year, Georgians were treated to the mugshots of two alleged crooked politicians. State Senator Don Balfour and state Representative Chuck Sims were both arrested, photographed, and booked into jail. A new bill would keep the mugshots of crooked politicians (and everyone else, for that matter) hidden from the public.

House Bill 845, sponsored by Rep. Brian Strickland (R - McDonough), would "prohibit the disclosure of arrest booking photographs except under certain circumstances."

The legislation reads --

"Code Section 50-18-72 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to when public disclosure is not required, is amended in subsection (a) by revising paragraph (4) and by adding a new paragraph to read as follows:

(4.1) An arrest booking photograph unless the person in the photograph has been convicted of a crime. As used in this paragraph, the term 'convicted' means a plea of guilty or a finding of guilt by a court of competent jurisdiction or the acceptance of a plea of nolo contendere, irrespective of the pendency or availability of an appeal or an application for collateral relief."

A more simple interpretation of H.B. 845 is this:

A person's mugshot shall not be released unless the person has been convicted of a crime.

House Bill 845 is a sweetheart deal for legislators who no longer will have to worry about an adversary obtaining their mugshot and exploiting it for political purposes.

But once again, the people have got to know whether or not their elected officials are crooks. Hiding mugshots from public view makes keeping those in power honest that much harder.