New Laws and Lawsuits Target Mugshot Sites

350px-Bertillon_selfportraitThere is a new and disturbing industry that has sprung up: publishing mugshots of people and then charging to have those pictures taken down. One individual in the article below, Jaclyn Lardie, paid hundreds of dollars to remove the mugshot from a college drinking arrest only to have the picture appear on other sites. States have moved in to try to legislate protections. While invented in its standard form in 1888 by Alphonse Bertillon (shown here), it took the Internet to make a rather shady business out of the millions of mugshots generated in criminal arrests great and small.

Various websites have also sprung up to help people deal with such embarrassing pictures. It has become a cottage industry as people find themselves in the post-pay-post cycle.

There is a class action against sites like Justmugshots.com where plaintiffs are alleging a violation of the right to privacy in the use of their images for profit without their consent.

In today’s Internet age, these pictures come back to haunt people when they are searched in Google. Seven states — Georgia, Illinois, Texas, Utah, Oregon, Colorado and Wyoming — have passed laws to curtail the practice but Marc Epstein, a lawyer for Mugshots.com, told Fox News that such laws are unconstitutional.

That does present an interesting question. This does look like protected speech to me. This is a government publication that is available to the public. These photos are routinely published by the media and on sites like this one. Of course, these sites just published all mugshots, which reduces the newsworthy element. However, they can claim that they are a popular resource to people searching stories and personal investigations. Sometimes such unknown individuals later become newsmakers for good or bad.

The laws and lawsuit pit free speech advocates against consumer protection advocates in a difficult conflict.

A typical statute (out of Texas) focuses on sites charging more than $150 “or more or other comparable value” to remove such pictures. On one hand, the law creates useful requirements of posting contact information for people to use to challenge the accuracy of such photos. However, the creation of a new crime for such postings raises difficult free speech issues in my view. There is an obvious good-faith concern over extortion when these sites are all too willing to take down photos for a price. That cuts against the notion that they are creating a public resource and service. Moreover, these sites can fold in claimed administrative costs like salaries to argue that they are not making a profit. The line drawing presents some interesting and difficult questions.

Source: ABC

54 thoughts on “New Laws and Lawsuits Target Mugshot Sites”

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  2. Report each site at http://www.ic3.gov

    Read the post above. One applicable section is:

    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 (internet) public records.

  3. Is what’s occurring both a criminal violation of the US Code and do people have actionable civil claim (Rights of Publicity) the answer is yes, but will anything be done the answer is no. Journalistic investigation gave the hidden problem.

    I emailed a Sheriff’s Department in Florida and cc, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the FBI and the DOJ about a female senior citizen that had minor offense (Dementia Related) which she was arrested for that predates the registration/creation date of both the Sheriff’s and the Webmaster’s website that she was listed on so it’s not possible that her data was screen scrapped, but was released by a government agency. My question was how much is the cost to obtain the data and what form or procedure and/or agency can accomplish that for me? I got zero response from the government even from the state of Florida that boasts about its openness.

    So following up on the premise that government individuals are being paypaled by Webmaster’s for illegally obtaining and procuring records I contacted the local Sheriff’s Office who referred my basic records request all the way to the Florida Attorney General as did the FDLE. After, repeated attempts to get an answer from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office I was emailed some totally unrelated .pdf brochure giving general information about the office and shortly there after the AG website added a link to download her picture possible to proactively prepare for some lame legal defense.

    The FBI has an entire page describing that this activity is illegal and gives people a link to fill out a form and nothing gets done for there are google map directions posted online for them to know how to get from the local FBI office to a few miles away were the Webmaster’s live.
    http://www.fbi.gov/news/news_blog/ic3-wa

    File a report with Interpol
    http://www.interpol.int/Forms/Contact_IN

    The Wizard of Oz
    USA has collapsed online the government cowaries under DoS attacks (automated throttling) while Webmaster’s steal their data, emblems and badges to reuse on their website to set up their individual Domain Name Countries.

    Dorothy (US Citizen’s) enters the Land of Oz (internet) a fantasy realm under the rule of one Monarch (DOC). Dorothy who is off to see the Wizard (Webmaster) on the yellow brick road (US Law) encounters the Scarecrow (DOJ) who if he only had a brain would know that offenders who steal, defame and slander pays the injured party (Reputation Repair) and not vice versa.

    Dorothy continues her journey she meets the Tin Men (FBI) who can not move or respond at all, if they only had a heart. All together skipping along they meet the Cowardly Lion (Legislative Branch) who is enacting laws to send Dorothy off to see the Wizard (Webmaster)…

    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 (internet) 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;

    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 2319 – Criminal infringement of a copyright
    17 USC 506 – Criminal offenses
    “For purposes of commercial advantage (website) or private financial gain (money).”
    Governmental Prima Facie Evidence of name and likeness copyright:
    State Certified Birth Certificate, State Drivers License, US Passport and other government documents and records created to identify and validate name and likeness.

    18 USC § 1593A – Benefitting financially from peonage, slavery, and trafficking in persons
    Individuals are forced to earn money and pay extortion demands to Webmaster’s. When individuals buy their freedom they are relisted on an ancillary site.

    18 USC 2261A – Stalking
    Unlawfully using ones name and likeness online is the most persistent and consistent form of stalking it’s 24/7/365 global “harassment.”

    18 USC 873 – Blackmail
    “As consideration for not informing receives money.”

    18 USC 875 – Interstate communications
    Transmits (internet) communication interstate (internet) with the intent to injure reputation to extort.

    18 USC § 880 – Receiving the proceeds of extortion
    “A person who receives money”

    18 USC § 1962 – Prohibited activities (RICO)
    “Collection of an unlawful debt”

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  5. Frankly, I was using my own small company as an example. And, I interviewed all applicants. When I was a Vista job developer for parolees, I found the most receptive were smaller companies. The size where the owner did the hiring. And, I did follow-up after a parolee was hired. If there were problems, the owner had someone to call who would be responsive.

  6. Nick “If they are truthful, I would consider that a plus and then weigh the convictions and discuss it w/ the applicant. ”

    No you wouldn’t. At least not in any company I have consulted with simply because you would never get to interview them. “We have dozens of applicants why would we go with a criminal?” – direct quote from an HR guy.

    Worse still companies are using credit checks to screen out applicants for mundane jobs that don’t handle cash etc. So if you got laid off in 2008 or had a medical emergency or other life event that caused you to lose your house in the crash of 08 you have a much higher hurdle to getting a job now, and for no real reason, just HR playing CYA – “Hey, we screen out risky candidates, its not our fault we hired a lemon!” – no a direct quote but the vibe.

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