Controversial New Bill Would Block Trump’s Mugshot

A controversial new legislative proposal in Georgia would prevent law enforcement agencies from releasing a person’s mugshot to the public until after the suspect was convicted.

If this law would’ve been in place earlier this year, former President Donald Trump would not have been able to use his mugshot for marketing, fundraising and merchandising purposes.

The proposal, House Bill 882, was introduced by Democratic state Representative Roger Bruce. If passed, the bill would “prohibit the release or posting of a booking photograph unless and until the individual depicted therein is convicted.”

The district that Bruce represents includes parts of Fulton County, which is where Trump and other people are facing criminal charges that they tried to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state.

Like he has done in all four criminal cases he’s currently facing, Trump pleaded not guilty to all those charges.

Trump didn’t have a mugshot taken in the other three criminal prosecutions that he’s facing — two at the federal level and one in New York State — though he did have one taken on August 24, 2023, in Georgia.

The mugshot was released to the public not long after it was taken, and it shows Trump with a confident and mean stare into the camera.

The former president slyly has used that mugshot to his advantage, plastering it in fundraising campaigns and other marketing materials, and even selling merchandise with it prominently featured.

Georgia has long considered booking photos to be public records. However, Bruce said he believed that approach was ultimately unfair to people who are charged with crimes but then acquitted at a later time.

As he commented to local media outlet 11Alive News:

“Just because you’ve been arrested does not mean you’ve committed a crime. You’ve been accused of a crime. If you’ve been exonerated, you should not have your mugshot out on the internet.”
Despite this argument, there are some who believe the bill would diminish transparency among law enforcement agencies in Georgia. Richard Griffiths, who serves as the Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s president emeritus, said to Newsweek that the bill is “well-intentioned but misguided.”

He commented:

“A transparent arrest process actually protects the offender, and that process is public for a reason. It’s important for democracy to know it is treating people fairly, and at a time where opaque operations of police are under scrutiny in many jurisdictions, this would be a step backward.”

He added that mugshots being public avoids any possible confusion taking place about who might have been arrested, since many people either have similar names or the same name.

Griffiths added about the proposed bill:

“[It] would effectively prevent law enforcement from publishing mugshots of adjudicated defendants who are wanted for other crimes. So, somebody is arrested, booked, bails out and then is wanted for a more serious crime. Law enforcement wouldn’t be allowed to post that and say, ‘Hey, we’re looking for this guy.’”