Internet mugshot posting

Legal Q&ACategory: Intellectual PropertyInternet mugshot posting
Legal.com Staff asked 1 year ago

A major website published my mugshot over a misdemeanor traffic violation and now its showing up whenever someone googles my name. I requested it be removed by google and they are saying the site has to remove it. The site is asking minimally for 400.00 to do so. I know this is public information but still being on google and the other website is frustrating. My case has been closed for 3 years and again it was misdemeanor traffic, no accident, no injuries, no victims, no drugs, children or anyone else involved….ect. I think it is very important for sites to show mugshots of wanted people, but I went to my court date, paid my ticket, ect. It may not seem like a big deal to most people but this has been bothering me for 3 years now. Is there anyway at all the get the site to remove my picture and info without paying a fee? Thanks for any info.

1 Answers
Legal.com Staff answered 8 months ago

Hi,
I now know more about the new mugshot industry than I ever wanted to. That said, take the following as informational, because I’m not a Florida attorney and am not an expert in criminal law.
Searching “Florida mugshot remove” in Legal.com’s Legal Research area brings tons of hits. There is a new industry, thanks to the Internet, that preys on people who’ve been lucky enough to pose for a mugshot. These pictures have always been public record, but you had to go down to the police department to see one. Now they come up when someone Google’s a name, as you’ve discovered.
The problem is, Internet sites that invade your privacy are generally protected by the First Amendment’s right to free speech. Even worse, they’re publishing something that is in the public domain. The media has always published photos of celebs and politicians but now, these Internet sites are publishing photos of private citizens – and holding out for payment of a ransom to take them down.
There is a movement to outlaw the practice but laws proposed so far have been called unconstitutional. Florida HB 677 proposes that, “Websites Containing Information Concerning Persons Charged with Crimes: Requires that operators of websites containing personal information of persons charges with crimes remove person’s name & information within specified period after notice that person is acquitted or charges are dropped or otherwise resolved without conviction; provides civil penalty; provides for presumption of defamation.” You might want to contact the Bill’s author, Florida Representative Carl Zimmerman, to offer your story in support of passage of this or a similar Bill.
Mugshot publishing with a bounty to take it down is being viewed as one of the latest Internet scams. Problem is, operators are protected by the First Amendment. Further, the agreement published by the company that operates mugshots.com specifies a Caribbean nation’s laws and the site appears to be registered by a corporation in Belize – not real easy for you to sue, even if you could win. Meanwhile, there is also a mugshot.com – FYI.
You have a tough challenge here. Not legal advice, but just some practical suggestions: Don’t reward them by giving them money. Even if you do, you have no assurance that the picture won’t pop up on other sites. There are more than one of these. You may also want to learn some Internet reputation tricks of the trade – let’s say “Bob Smith” has something negative published, that doesn’t appear when “Robert Smith” is searched. Same thing happens when you add or delete a middle initial, or spell out the middle name. Use the unaffected but otherwise legal version of your name to avoid unwanted hits to these sites.
Please feel free to drop back by to post updates to this evolving situation. Although the First Amendment gives Web sites the right to publish public records that are true, their willingness to take the information down for a fee seems pretty questionable and may be the hook needed to outlaw this practice.
Best,
— Dave
Alden Law Group
Aviation & Business
Sacramento, CA
Forum Moderator
Legal.com, Inc.
This response reflects the author’s opinion. It has been published
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