Starting this Monday, a new law in California is set to bring significant changes to the way suspects’ mugshots are handled, both in terms of their publication on social media and the inclusion of preferred pronouns.
Under the amended AB 994 law, the practice of publishing mugshots on social media will be restricted primarily to suspects facing violent charges, and these images can only be maintained online for a maximum of two weeks. The law specifies that mugshots on social media are permissible when the suspect is either a fugitive, poses an imminent threat to individuals or public safety, and the publication of their image could aid in their capture or mitigate the threat. This regulation will also be applied retroactively, necessitating law enforcement agencies to remove previously posted mugshots from their social platforms. However, the rule excludes agency websites and data systems.
Exceptions to this time limit are possible, either through a judicial order or under urgent circumstances, allowing mugshots to remain online if the suspect is not apprehended within the two-week window.
Another notable aspect of this legislation is its approach to gender identity. Law enforcement is now required to use a suspect’s self-identified name and pronouns when releasing mugshots. The legal name of the suspect may also be included if it is deemed necessary to facilitate their capture.
Previously, California law already prohibited the publication of mugshots for individuals charged with nonviolent offenses. The definition of violent crimes in this context includes serious offenses such as murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, robbery, and burglary.
This law comes into effect in the backdrop of California’s violent crime statistics for 2022, as reported by the FBI. These figures, sourced from only 49% of agencies using the FBI’s National Incident Based Reporting system, indicate nearly 195,000 violent crime incidents in the state last year.