New Utah Law Protects Mug Shots Until Suspects Are Convicted
OGDEN, Utah – A new law that goes into effect in July will ban law enforcement agencies from releasing the booking photos of any person arrested and charged with a crime in Utah before they are convicted.
Even though the law goes into effect in July, some sheriff’s departments told KSL they will begin to enforce it immediately. It means that when new arrests are made, members of the media won’t get those mug shots right away as they have in the past.
The law was designed to protect people who are wrongly accused.
Kerry Maw told KSL that once a person’s mug shot is out there, people assume guilt.
For him, that problem hasn’t gone away even though the right man is now behind bars.
“My whole life has just been turned upside down because of this,” Maw said.
If you never break the law, it’s probably something you’ve never considered. Maw hadn’t until deputies showed up on his doorstep.
“Getting arrested at gunpoint for something that you haven’t done, it’s pretty traumatic. I mean, I’ve had nightmares,” he said.
It all happened because a neighbor thought Maw looked a lot like the actual bank robber.
“There had been a bank was robbed and then realized which bank had been robbed and realized I had never been in that bank before,” Maw said.
He posted bail and was released, but he was not cleared of the crime until a man named Anthony Murdzak robbed the bank a second time.
Police determined Maw was nowhere near the bank. Murdzak confessed and is now serving a federal sentence, but it was too late for Maw — his mug shot was all over the internet.
“It was everywhere. My phone wouldn’t stop ringing for weeks and it was hard to relive that, you know, hour-by-hour and trying to explain myself and tell people I was innocent,” he explained.
His booking photo is still out there and greatly hurt his two businesses over the past two years.
“People that I want to do business with you, it’s just so easy to Google a person’s name nowadays. What would you do?” he asked.
That’s why he’s grateful that a new Utah law will protect the release of mug shots until after someone is convicted of a crime and help others avoid his pain.
“It’s a scarlet letter around your neck. I’m going to live with this the rest of my life,” he said.
All of that because he kind of looked like a guy when compared to a dark surveillance photo.
Maw is trying to clear his reputation on the web.
There are a couple of exceptions to this new law, for example, when police are looking for a suspect and seeking the public’s help.
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