Mugshot confidentiality bill voted down by slim margin

Gavel(Associated Press)
Published: Feb. 15, 2021 at 4:02 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - By just three votes, the North Dakota House of Representatives voted down a bill to make booking photos and mugshots confidential on Monday.

Forty-five voted in support of the bill, with 49 voting against it. House Bill 1296 needed 48 votes to pass.

The bill would have made the pictures confidential until a person was convicted or if law enforcement felt there was a compelling public safety interest.

However, if the release of the photo was not justified, the officer could be penalized.

“We’re going to charge a local law enforcement officer with a class C felony, for wrongly releasing a photograph? It doesn’t make sense to me. We would ruin that law enforcement officer’s career, there’s no question,” said Rep. Pat Heinert, R-Bismarck.

Republican Representative Austen Schauer of West Fargo said during a committee discussion in January, a man in favor of the bill talked about his mugshot circulating online.

“And he talked about being haunted by the mugshot. I just wonder about the victims of those five felonies and ten misdemeanors are they haunted by what he did to them? I would say no vote on 1296,” said Schauer.

Schauer also mentioned West Fargo Police Chief Denis Otterness had concerns about the bill.

“He also said many items were not considered when this bill was drafted, such as the compelling public safety interest, what authority has this standard and what standard do they use to decide on the compelling public safety interest?” said Schauer.

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