Mugshots, long thought of as public information in New York State, will no longer be accessible for the public and media. Not even under a Freedom of Information Law Request. That "mugshot ban" was passed into law as part of the 2020 state budget. 

"People can FOIL, but it won't do any good because it can be denied," says Broome County Sheriff David Harder. 

They're not really entirely banned. Law enforcement can release them, but now have to provide a reason for doing so. Harder says this could be if they're looking for someone and need the public's help. What constitutes an emergency reason for releasing a mugshot is not yet clear. Harder says he has yet to see the final bill language. 

New York State Police stopped publishing mugs to their website as of April 3rd. 

The new law allows law enforcement agencies to share photos of individuals taken at booking, also known as mugshots, only when there is a specific law enforcement purpose to do so.  For example, these photos could be released if the public can assist police in locating a wanted suspect, finding additional witnesses or victims, or developing new leads in an ongoing investigation.  The law is not designed to limit all access to these photos, but instead to protect the privacy rights of individuals involved in the justice system and to allow law enforcement agencies to determine when disclosure is reasonable given the circumstances.

— New York State Police

Governor Andrew Cuomo originally pushed to restrict access to all booking information, including names, charges, and other arrest records citing privacy concerns. It was a proposal that met opposition from journalists and proponents of an open government, who said this would lead to "secret arrests" and a lack of accountability. Lawmakers scaled that back and the bill that passed only bans the photos taken at booking. 

Broome County District Attorney Steve Cornwell says he agrees with Cuomo that there are issues with mugshot access being abused by websites that post the photos and then demand payment to remove them, but, at the same time "the public needs to be on notice of certain people."

"I think the fact that the information can still be released and the mugshots can be released if it's an emergency is, I think, the best compromise they could come up with," says Cornwell. 

Harder says until he has the legislation in his hands and can read through it, it's unclear how this will affect his agency moving forward.