Mugshot websites have become a regular curse across the Internet for those who’ve had a run-in with the law and been processed for an arrest. Technically known as booking photos, mugshots are essentially the image that is part of the arrest documentation prepared by a police department. A person may or may not eventually be convicted, much less even tried, but the mugshot remains as part of a public record from a government agency. As a result, the document and image itself is not illegal. Rather, it’s quite the opposite. The posting of the mugshot by itself with just the record information is not illegal either.
However, while the public record being available searchable online is simply a result of the world shifting to digital life, when businesses actively use these records to pressure people for money, things can take a different turn. There are a number of laws on the books both at the state level and higher that make it illegal to coerce money or favors out of a person with a threat, even a social one. Blackmailing, coercion, or outright threats and harassment are in many states considered felonies, and they may also be violations of federal Internet criminal laws as well.
How Arrest Warrants Create Mugshots for Websites
If wondering how do arrests warrants work to create mugshots for websites, booking photos become available to businesses via a public record request. Non-sensitive police records are regularly accessible to the public and the press, and many police departments like to make them public to highlight potential criminals and create a deterrence for others thinking of doing the same kind of behavior. More recently, police departments are also running their own websites, providing image and identification information as well on recent arrests. Given the value of the Internet and the creativity of many business entrepreneurs, it was just a matter of time until someone figured out how to make these government records “valuable” as well.
While Mugshot Businesses Thrive
The number one reason why government documents become valuable is due to their scarcity. Government agencies do not make it any kind of priority to make their records accessible. While they keep paper copies, prior to the Internet one had to physically go to the agency to get the record. Knowing that agencies aren’t the most creative business entities, many enterprising outfits have figured out with record act powers that they have a unique and massive library available to them that can be shared online for fees. Finding money owed to somebody is a common business model now. You pay a fee to a firm who already has the record and then tells you which government agency owes you money. However, when it comes to mugshots, the income potential is different. By putting the records online, businesses create an incentive for people to pay for their removal. Afterall, who wants to be known as a criminal? With a constant feed of new mugshots, business is brisk and growing every year.
Legal Decisions on Public Mugshots
The issue of public airing of mugshots saw a federal appeals decision pretty much eliminate a former arrestee’s right to removal in 1996. Yet in 2016 the appeals court flipped stating people have a vested, real interest in their image online, even as a mugshot (Detroit Free Press Inc. v. United States Dep’t of Justice, 829 F.3d 478 (6th Cir. 2016). Now, state laws are mixed on the matter. Utah bars their sheriffs from giving mugshots to people who will charge money for its removal. Oregon requires such websites to remove mugshots when requested in writing by someone who was not convicted. Financially, a number of online payment tools have stopped working with mugshot websites as well, including Paypal, starving such businesses of their easy income cash flow. Yet they persist.
Net Reputation has a long track record of helping erase mugshots and can remove information from Internet sites. While we don’t have a magic wand, we are very adept in using multiple tools to get booking photos removed, both directly and indirectly. If you’re struggling with a mugshot image problem online, we can help. Connect with us to find out more.