Assemblyman RONALD S. DANCER
District 12 (Burlington, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean)
Assemblyman DECLAN J. O'SCANLON, JR.
District 13 (Monmouth)
Requires public release of photographs of arrestees under State’s open public records law.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act requiring the public release of photographs of arrestees and amending P.L.1963, c.73.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. Section 3 of P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-3) is amended to read as follows:
3. a. Notwithstanding the provisions of P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) as amended and supplemented, where it shall appear that the record or records which are sought to be inspected, copied, or examined shall pertain to an investigation in progress by any public agency, the right of access provided for in P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) as amended and supplemented may be denied if the inspection, copying or examination of such record or records shall be inimical to the public interest; provided, however, that this provision shall not be construed to allow any public agency to prohibit access to a record of that agency that was open for public inspection, examination, or copying before the investigation commenced. Whenever a public agency, during the course of an investigation, obtains from another public agency a government record that was open for public inspection, examination or copying before the investigation commenced, the investigating agency shall provide the other agency with sufficient access to the record to allow the other agency to comply with requests made pursuant to P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.).
b. Notwithstanding the provisions of P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.), as amended and supplemented, the following information and records concerning a criminal investigation shall be available to the public within 24 hours or as soon as practicable, of a request for such information or record:
(1) where a crime has been reported but no arrest yet made, information as to the type of crime, time, location and type of weapon, if any;
if an arrest has been made, information as to the name, address and age of any victims unless there has not been sufficient opportunity for notification of next of kin of any victims of injury and/or death to any such victim or where the release of the names of any victim would be contrary to existing law or court rule. In deciding on the release of information as to the identity of a victim, the safety of the victim and the victim's family, and the integrity of any ongoing investigation, shall be considered;
if an arrest has been made, information as to the defendant's name, age, residence, occupation, marital status and similar background information and, the identity of the complaining party unless the release of such information is contrary to existing law or court rule;
information as to the text of any charges such as the complaint, accusation and indictment unless sealed by the court or unless the release of such information is contrary to existing law or court rule;
information as to the identity of the investigating and arresting personnel and agency and the length of the investigation;
information of the circumstances immediately surrounding the arrest, including but not limited to the time and place of the arrest, resistance, if any, pursuit, possession and nature and use of weapons and ammunition by the suspect and by the police; and
information as to circumstances surrounding bail, whether it was posted and the amount thereof.
Notwithstanding any other provision of this [subsection] paragraph, where it shall appear that the information requested or to be examined will jeopardize the safety of any person or jeopardize any investigation in progress or may be otherwise inappropriate to release, such information may be withheld. This exception shall be narrowly construed to prevent disclosure of information that would be harmful to a bona fide law enforcement purpose or the public safety. Whenever a law enforcement official determines that it is necessary to withhold information, the official shall issue a brief statement explaining the decision.
(2) if an arrest has been made, the booking photographs taken by or on behalf of a law enforcement agency of a defendant upon being taken into custody.
(cf: P.L.2001, c.404, s.5)
2. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill would clarify that the booking photographs taken of a defendant after an arrest, commonly referred to as mugshots, are to be available to the public under the State’s open public records law. Current law does not specifically address the availability of mugshots to the public. Instead, decisions on whether to release mugshots are left to the discretion of investigative agencies, allowing inconsistent policies on the release of these records to be applied throughout the State. This bill would provide a uniform policy that all mugshots are to be made available to the public.