An unidentified man holds a name placard in a police station line-up area.

Why You Haven’t Seen Mugshots on the Internet Lately

After a recent “Peeping Tom” arrest in Vacaville, residents on social media are wondering why the Vacaville Police Department didn’t post the suspect’s booking photo. Well, it turns out releasing booking photos is one more thing police aren’t allowed to do in California.

The Law that Banned Most Mugshots on Social Media

AB 1475 became law in 2022 and prohibits police and sheriff departments from posting booking photos (mugshots) on “social media” for nonviolent crimes unless certain conditions exist. These conditions essentially include:

  • The suspect is a fugitive or imminent threat to public safety
  • A judge orders the release of the photo in furtherance of a legitimate law enforcement purpose
  • An exigent circumstance exists and releasing the photo would further an urgent and legitimate law enforcement purpose

The law refers to a previous law to define “nonviolent crime” and “social media.”

Social media is defined as “an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to, videos or still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet site profiles or locations.”

So, if a suspect is arrested for a nonviolent crime, such as “Peeping,” don’t expect to see their mugshot shared by law enforcement in California.

AB 1475 was one of several California police oversight bills passed in rapid succession in 2021 following public outrage over the killing of George Floyd.

The Law Also Forced Removal of Many Mugshots

AB 1475, codified as Penal Code 13665, also requires police and sheriff departments to remove previously posted booking photos for nonviolent arrests upon request. The result is some departments have removed all booking photos proactively.