A (Mug) Shot to Your Reputation

Law Blog

It has become a common occurrence: if you want to find more information about someone, you simply enter their name in a popular search engine and view the results. Many people are researching their job applicants, dates, babysitters and more by searching online, and often the results at the top of the first page contains information about an arrest and an accompanying mugshot. The justice system is supposed to protect people by giving them the status of "innocent until proven guilty", but the appearance of someone on one of these mugshot websites seems to run counter to that. Read on to learn more about what happens when your face is plastered on the internet for a crime that you were not guilty of committing.

The picture of guilt.

The booking information about those arrested is considered public information, and the ability to view the actions of the justice system openly provides a valuable means of keeping check on the actions of the law enforcement community. That being said, being arrested for a crime is not the same as being convicted of a crime. You will not likely find the mugshot websites doing follow up reports on those who's charges were dropped or who were found to be not guilty. The damage done by the publication of a mug shot cannot be undone; once a potential employer views your mug on the internet, you are not very likely to be interviewed or hired for a position, regardless of the final outcome of your case.

The business end.

Many law enforcement agencies do publish arrest information and mugshots, but they seldom have the storage capacity to keep this information indefinitely. That is where companies like Mugshots.com comes in. Their "bots" search the law enforcement websites and mine the data their for publication on their own, for-profit websites. You should understand that there is no law against this practice, which may explain why these types of sites seem to be multiplying rapidly.

Where's the money?

You may be wondering how these websites produce income, and it is the same way that many websites profit: by selling advertising on it. However, there is another source of income for these websites that is more controversial. It seems that if you wish to have your photo removed from the website you can do it for a fee. Since your photo and information can easily appear on dozens of these sites, you can imagine how expensive it could be to totally erase those images. While there are few sites that offer to remove the information of people who have been exonerated, they are few and far between. The question of the legality of these websites requiring payment for the removal of photos of innocent people is an emerging issue, and is still very much up in the air.

What you can do.

While some payment systems have stopped allowing payments to these types of websites, there are also class action lawsuits and legislation afoot to severely restrict or prohibit these websites in certain states. If you are the victim of a mugshot website, contact a legal advice attorney today for assistance. 


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