The New York State Police will no longer release mugshots, the agency announced Wednesday.
The decision follows passage of the 2019-20 state budget that included a provision effectively prohibiting the release of booking photos. The language was included in the budget because supporters believe the release of the images is an "unacceptable invasion of the individual's personal privacy."
The state police said it will no longer release mugshots and won't provide the images when requested by the press. The exception is if the agency chooses to release mugshots "for specific law enforcement purposes only."
Beau Duffy, a state police spokesman, said the photos could be released if it can assist police with developing leads for an investigation, finding witnesses or locating a wanted suspect.
"The law is not designed to limit all access to these photos, but instead to protect the privacy rights of individuals involved in the justice system and to allow law enforcement agencies to determine when disclosure is reasonable given the circumstances," Duffy said.
After the state police informed the press that it wouldn't distribute mugshots, The Citizen received a news release from the agency regarding a drug bust in Oneida County. The mugshots of the two men arrested on drug charges were included with the release.
The mugshot ban was proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his executive budget. He aimed to crack down on websites that post mugshots online, then attempt to extort individuals who wish to have the image removed.
These websites, according to Cuomo's office, often charge up to $400 to remove a photo after it's published online. The governor's State of the State booklet claimed the mugshot ban "will prevent the release of information that fuels this extortionate practice and help ensure the privacy of individuals."
A budget bill released last week would've extended the ban to include booking information. That provision would've prevented law enforcement agencies from releasing arrest records, such as the individual's name and the charges against them.
Before the budget was finalized, it was amended to exclude booking information from the ban. It would only apply to the release of mugshots, not arrest records.