California law: Officials must use arrestee’s pronouns if sharing mugshots

California law: Officials must use arrestee's pronouns if sharing mugshots

A new California law is placing more rules on the use of mugshots posted to law enforcement agencies’ social media accounts.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2024, police departments and sheriff’s offices will have to include the name and pronouns provided by the person arrested when their mugshot is posted on the agencies’ social media accounts.

The new law, AB 994, also further limits the circumstances under which law enforcement can share a mugshot on social media and adds rules on the removal of new and existing mugshots from these sites.

Using the name and pronouns provided by the arrestee

AB 994 will require police and sheriff’s offices to use the name and pronouns provided by the arrestee if their mugshot is to be posted on the agencies’ social media accounts. This applies to individuals accused of any crime.

The agencies will be authorized to use other legal names or aliases if these will assist in detaining the individual, lower any “imminent threat to an individual or to public safety,” or if there are other “exigent” or urgent reasons to do so.

When booking a person after their arrest, law enforcement usually uses a person’s name obtained from legal documents, such as a birth certificate, driver’s license or government ID, but the new rules apply to when the person’s mugshot is posted on social media.

Removal of mugshots from social media

The new law limits local law enforcement from posting a mugshot to their social media accounts if the person is accused of a nonviolent crime unless any of the following reasons apply:
• this will aid in the capture of the person
• there is an existing threat to others
• a judge orders the release of the image

The new law also requires law enforcement agencies to remove all mugshots from their social media accounts within 14 days unless any of the same three reasons apply, and this includes mugshots for people accused of any crime.

Finally, AB 994 applies all of these new rules retroactively to all mugshots that have already been published to local law enforcement’s social media accounts.

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