Felony Suspects: Mug Shots Will Soon Be Public Record In SD

Attorney General Says New Law Would Provide More Transparency, More Accurate Reporting

It’s not often that the public sees a mug shot in South Dakota. Only in rare circumstances, if a criminal is a fugitive or has escaped from jail or prison, can law enforcement officials release them. But that’s about to change after Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a bill last week that will make some of them public record.

The South Dakota Attorney General went into the legislative session hoping to get a number of bills passed. But Marty Jackley says Senate Bill 25 faced one of the most difficult roads.

Jackley said, “This was the third or forth this particular bill came up. I think it took really the work of the media, the work of the Governor, and the Attorney General to say, ‘We should do this’.”

The law, which goes into effect in July, will make a booking photo public record if the person is accused of a felony. But some lawmakers say it wipes away the presumption of innocence. Others are concerned about what’s happening in other states, where mug shots are being used to extort people.

“I was very open as Attorney General, I said, ‘That’s against the law here and if somebody does that, let me know, and I’ll address it’,” said Jackley.

Jackley says at a time when the state needs to be transparent, it was important to get the bill passed.

“We’ve seen some of the cases, whether it be EB-5 or GEAR UP. The public wants to see what’s going on not just in Pierre but statewide,” said Jackley.

He says it’s allows the media to be more accurate.

Jackley said, “We shouldn’t have the media having to look on Google and other places. The media should be able to come to law enforcement and make sure they’re reporting on the right person.”

Previously, Jackley says it was a crime in South Dakota if a sheriff would release a mug shot.

Only one other state doesn’t allow booking photos to be a part of public record, which is Louisiana. The new law will not require law enforcement to provide or reproduce a mug shot older than six months.

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