Arrest reports and booking mug shots long obtained by media outlets could be restricted from public access at the recommendation of two Augusta legislators.
Sens. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, and Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, were two of five senators on the Expungement Reform Study Committee, established last year to protect the wrongly accused or convicted from the life-changing impact such reports can have.
Among its recommendations, which Davis said he expects the Legislature to take up this year, is amending the Georgia Open Records Act to exclude “information gathered in a suspect’s initial booking following arrest, including mug shot photos, from the type of records that must be disclosed.”
David Hudson, an attorney for the Georgia Press Association and The Augusta Chronicle, said restricting public access to arrest reports “resembles practices in a police state, where
information and identities of those arrested are not made available to the public.”
Withholding from the public knowledge of who has been arrested and on what grounds “would remove great safeguards for individual citizens, and for effective oversight on how police authorities and jailers perform their duties,” Hudson said.
When the General Assembly convenes Monday, state Sen. Bill Jackson, R-Appling, will be one of two Republican senators on the Augusta delegation. Jackson and Stone had their districts drawn into Augusta-Richmond County by the GOP-dominated Legislature.
The Augusta delegation also includes newcomer Brian Prince, D-Augusta, elected to replace Rep. Quincy Murphy, who died last year. Democrats Wayne Howard, Earnest Smith and Gloria Frazier and Republican Barbara Sims are also in the delegation.
Davis said he expects the Legislature to take immediate action on an issue that directly impacts Augusta: the date of the state general primary.
After a Republican-led fight, city nonpartisan races were moved to the primary date, typically in July.
After a federal judge moved the state federal primary to May 20, state leaders said they intend to move the general primary to the same date.
Until they do so, Augusta voters and candidates, including Davis, who is running for mayor, won’t know for certain when the election will be held.