Colorado Senate gives initial nod to bills regulating CORA fees and online mug shots

By Jeffrey A. Roberts
CFOIC Executive Director

A revised version of the mug shot bill won initial approval in the Colorado Senate on Monday, while state senators also gave a preliminary nod to amended legislation on open-records fees.

HB 14-1193, which aims to standardize what the state and local governments can charge for researching and compiling public records, passed on a weak-sounding voice vote. If it wins third-reading Senate approval, the House will then consider Senate amendments.

The House version of the bill was changed in a Senate committee last week to cap charges at $30 per hour with a requirement that the first hour be provided for free. HB 14-1193 also would prohibit governments and agencies in Colorado from charging for public records without first publishing their fee policies on the Internet or in some other form. Fees would be adjusted for inflation every five years.

“What we’re trying to do is shine more light on state and local governments in Colorado by creating more certainty for the citizen, for the public to be able to access open records and to know what the charges will be and the procedures that one must follow,” said Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, the Senate sponsor.

The Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) currently is silent on the cost of research-and-retrieval fees.

The Senate version of HB 14-1047, which is intended to stop Internet sites from charging people to take down their booking photos, is considerably different from the House version that passed in early February. That language would have required websites to remove a booking photo free of charge at the arrested person’s request if that person wasn’t charged with a crime, charges were dropped, the person was acquitted or the person’s criminal record had been sealed.

With Senate amendments, obtaining an arrest mug shot with the intention of posting it online and charging a fee to remove it would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. Anyone requesting a booking photo from a law enforcement agency must promise in writing not to abuse the proposed new law.

“It doesn’t keep someone from getting these mug shots because that is a First Amendment commercial right, as they are public records,” said Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, the Senate sponsor, “But it does take away the incentive for these companies to get them.”

Note: The board of directors of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition voted to support HB 14-1193 in the version as introduced.

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