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House rejects 'mug shot bill,' bail reform

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The House has rejected the so-called “mug shot” bill.

The bill would have prohibited police from releasing the photos taken when someone accused of a crime is first arrested. Supporters said it can cause harm to someone who was booked, but was found not guilty – yet the photo is still out in public.

"If the charge is dismissed, or the citizen is acquitted, it is impossible to undo the damage done," said Rep. Emily O'Brien (R-Grand Forks).

But Rep. Bill Devlin (R-Finley) said very few people in that situation are acquitted.

"I have synpathy for those few people that happens to," Devlin said. "But I find the overwheming good far outweighs any negative consequences."

Law enforcement agencies also opposed the bill. They said mug shots are useful, because they can pick up information from members of the public who see that mug shot on television or in a newspaper.

The bill failed on a 49-45 vote.     

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The House also rejected a measure to allow someone from North Dakota arrested for a “low level” misdemeanor offense to be released on their own recognizance pending trial.

Under it, courts would be instructed to issue a summons instead of an arrest warrant.

"The (Judiciary) Committee considered both the potential public safety risk from not collecting bail, and tghe negative impacts caused from holding citizens who don't have the financial resources to post bail," said Rep. Terry Jones (R-New Town). "The Committee determined the potential harm from holding someone is jail, because they were unable to post a bond outweighed the risks they posed to the public fro low-level crimes."

Rep. Steve Vetter (R-Grand Forks)  argued the measure is not in the best interest of a crime victim.

"Individuals arrested need to be removed from a violent situation, or provided time to 'cool down,'" Vetter said. "This bill would allow for the arrestee to reengage in illegal behavior."

The measure failed on a 58 to 36 vote.

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