Laws to Stop Mugshot Websites Have Good Intentions, Broad Language

Mugshot websites are equal parts shakedown and public service. One on hand, the site uses information in the public domain, and spreads it to the masses using the immediately accessible Internet as the vehicle. On the other, these sites are utilizing tactics that are tantamount to blackmail when they charge people appearing on these sits exorbitant fees to take down their photos. Should they have to suffer public humiliation because of one bad decision that led to an arrest? Lawyers and politicians are fighting back, and the results (as usual) are mixed.

The Legal Basics of Mugshot Sites

mugshot website lawsuits

The main problem many people face when confronting a mugshot website is the legality of posting public information. Their arrest, and any information the police make available, is a matter of public record. This means anyone can access the information anytime they wish – it’s not a secret. Calling the cops and reporting the website for posting your photo won’t do any good, because that act isn’t usually illegal.

Arrests Resulting in No Criminal Charges or Convictions

Legislatures in some states across the country are attempting to pass laws that would require mugshot websites to remove photos of those who were arrested, but either never charged or convicted of any crimes, within 15 days of written notification. Failure to comply with the request within 45 days, according to reports, would generate a fine and create the presumption of defamation of character. These bills may run into problems when owners of these mugshot websites attempt to hide behind the First Amendment as protecting their right to free speech.

Do these sites have a constitutional right to profit off images in the public domain? Even images of arrests where no criminal convictions or charges resulted? Courts may have very important rulings coming soon.

Broad Laws may Reduce Rights

mugshot websites legal rights

The broad language contained in some laws designed to curtail mugshot websites may also prevent legitimate journalists from posting arrest photos to cover breaking news stories. That could kill these proposals before they ever become laws, which only hurts the innocent who want their photos removed from the public eye. Lawmakers must craft legislation with a narrow scope to survive both Constitutional checks and to avoid language that unduly shifts the burden of proof regarding defamation lawsuits. The balance of power – indeed who can access information and disseminate it – is very important to our freedoms. As distasteful as these mugshot websites are, they may be a necessary evil for the time being.

How to Fight Back

If you’ve had a conviction expunged or sealed by the court, the mugshot website posting your photo may be in violation of a court order. Essentially, the website is posting information outside of the public realm, which could be illegal. This action may also cause damage to your good name and harm your ability to earn a living. You may be entitled to compensation for your losses from the website that wronged you. Contacting an experienced law firm can help you explore your legal options. Don’t try to approach the website on your own – let your lawyer do the heavy lifting for you.  

3 thoughts on “Laws to Stop Mugshot Websites Have Good Intentions, Broad Language

  1. Hans

    Expungement has nothing to do with private corporations’ reports. These orders are for specific to government entities, and don’t even apply to all of them.

    Reply
  2. Person

    A bipartisan committee supported Georgia Bill 150 which has been in effect since May 6, 2013. Bill 150 specifically deals with mugshot racketeer’s. However, Webmaster’s, hosting companies and search engines blatantly and adamantly refuse to obey US Law.

    Georgia Bill 150
    “Without fee or compensation, remove from such person’s website the subject individual’s arrest booking photograph.”

    justmugshots.com – $159.99 – Hosting amazon.com

    JUSTMUGSHOTS COM
    C/O ARTHUR D’ANTONIO III
    929 PORTLAND AVENUE S #1802
    MINNEAPOLIS, MN  55404

    US Code
    18 USC § 641 – Public money, property or records
    1. Whoever steals or purloins public records.
    2. Whoever knowingly converts public records to their use.
    3. Without authority sells public records.
    3. Without authority conveys public records.

    18 USC 1030 – Fraud and related activity in connection with computers
    (2) intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains
    (C) information from any protected computer;

    18 USC 1028A – Aggravated identity theft
    Whoever, knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses (website), without lawful authority, a means of identification (government photograph) of another person shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such felony, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 2 years.

    18 USC 2319 Criminal infringement of a copyright & 17 USC 506 Criminal offenses
    For the purpose of commercial advantage (website) and private financial gain.

    Governmental Prima Facie Evidence of name and likeness copyright:
    State Certified Birth Certificate, State Drivers License, Passport and other government documents and records created to identify and validate name and likeness.

    18 USC 1584 – Sale into involuntary servitude
    (a) Whoever knowingly and willfully holds to involuntary servitude or sells into any condition of involuntary servitude, any other person for any term, or brings within the United States any person so held, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

    Internet Spyware (I-SPY) Prevention Act of 2007
    Intentionally obtains (steals/screen scraps), or transmits (internet) to another person information with the intent to defraud (unpublish/repair reputation).

    18 USC 875 – Interstate communications
    Transmits (internet) communication interstate (world wide web) with the intent to injure reputation to extort (unpublish/repair reputation).

    18 USC 873 Blackmail
    Whoever, under a threat of informing, or as a consideration for not informing, against any violation of any law of the United States, demands or receives any money or other valuable thing, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

    18 USC 1962 – Prohibited activities
    (c) It shall be unlawful for any person employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt.

    18 USC 880 – Receiving the proceeds of extortion
    A person(s) who receives, possesses, conceals, or disposes of any blackmail (unpublish/repair reputation) money.

    Reply
  3. nonono

    Because she could not get a job or even a apartment. She could not take care of her son. She was better off dead. Only God forgives! Ppl are punished by society for the stupidest things. Maybe one day something like this will happen to the ppl who own those sites. Just bcuz they have the right doesn’t make it right! Ppl make mistakes, governments throw out convictions faster than you can blink, ppl who cannot afford to hire a lawyer get railroaded by the courts. Its not right… when are ppl going to start caring? Evil is winning…

    Reply

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