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California Introduces New Law, Limiting and Regulating Cops’ Posting of Mugshots Online, Forcing Chosen Names and Pronouns

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California’s AB 994 is a newly instituted piece of legislation that significantly regulates the protocol for police departments and sheriff’s offices in relation to the publication of mugshots on their social media platforms. This law, effective from January 1, 2024, introduces strict controls regarding the display of mugshots, particularly emphasizing the inclusion of the arrested individual’s self-identified name and gendered pronouns.

We obtained a copy of the bill for you here.

Under AB 994, the conditions allowing for the sharing of mugshots on social media by law enforcement are notably restricted. The law mandates that the person’s chosen name and chosen pronouns be used when their mugshot is uploaded on these platforms. This requirement is applicable regardless of the nature of the alleged crime.

“With respect to an individual who has been arrested for any crime, this bill would require a police department or sheriff’s office, upon posting a booking photo on social media, to use the name and pronouns given by the individual arrested,” the law specifically states.

Law enforcement agencies, however, retain the discretion to use other legal names or aliases in situations where it may aid in apprehending the individual, reduce imminent threats to public safety, or in other urgent scenarios.

Traditionally, the booking process after an arrest involves using the person’s legal name from official documents like birth certificates or driver’s licenses. The new legislation, however, stipulates these new rules specifically for the phase when the individual’s mugshot is posted online.

AB 994 also sets boundaries on the posting of mugshots for those accused of nonviolent crimes. The exceptions to this limitation include instances where the release of the image could contribute to the person’s capture, mitigate threats to others, or is ordered by a judge.

Furthermore, the law requires the removal of all mugshots from law enforcement social media accounts within two weeks, unless it falls under the same three exceptional categories.

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