By Haisten Willis
[name withheld] knew she was in an abusive relationship, and something had to be done. While seeking a divorce from her then-husband, the man scratched his own face and blamed her. [name withheld] was arrested and later exonerated, but a litany of websites like Mugshots.com are demanding money to have her unflattering arrest photo removed from their sites.
- They had Mugshot.com which is not used, so I believe they are talking about the site linked above.
Douglas County Democratic legislator Roger Bruce (Email, Facebook) has heard many such stories. In the 2013 legislative session, he plans to introduce a bill outlawing websites from profiting off the shots.
“We’ve been working on this for three or four months,” he said, adding that a draft of the bill already exists. “A number of folks have contacted me with issues about having mug shots posted online. They’ve been exonerated for what they were arrested for and want to get the picture removed. One site wanted to charge three or four thousand dollars. It’s crazy.”
- This is the same kind of extortion as the Offendex.com web site, which is potentially being sued.
Mugshots are taken any time someone is arrested, but they do not constitute a conviction. Thousands of people are arrested every year and later cleared of charges. Nonetheless, the shots linger indefinitely on popular mugshot websites, and can haunt people for years.
- Well, how does a web site get a hold of the mugshots in the first place? If the police would stop making them public accessible, then this would not be a problem.
“It sent me into a great depression,” said [name withheld], who lives in Douglasville. “I expunged my record, but it wasn’t that simple. It devastated my life and disrupted my family.”
Legally, the shots are public information. For example, the Douglas County jail website has a searchable database of mugshots, and they also appear regularly in newspapers. For-profit sites, however, post the pictures and charge large sums for removal.
- And that is the source of the problem.