Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Removing Your Mugshot From the Internet

Mugshots on the internet have become a big business over the past few years. Two websites in particular seem to dominate the industry, mugshots.com and justmugshots.com. These websites legally acquire mugshots, probably through FOIA requests or other means, and then post them on the internet. Then they request substantial fees, sometimes several hundred dollars, to remove the mugshots from their website. Most people think these guys are the scum of the earth and I agree (although I do wish I would have thought of that idea first).

Some of the websites have courtesy removal services. Basically, if the charges that lead to the mugshot were dismissed or expunged, they will remove the photo for free. The process is pretty straightforward and I have had clients' pictures removed in as little as three or four days. But for those people who were not fortunate enough to have their charges dismissed or expunged, they find themselves with a dilemma. Of course, they can pay $300 or $400 to have the picture removed, but the risk is that a "new" website pops up next week under a different name and reposts the picture. It seems to me that paying the extortion fee is risky proposition, but there is not really an adequate alternative.

Several state legislatures have begun to consider this issue. Illinois recently passed a law dealing with online mugshots, but I think they may have made the situation worse, not better. Illinois has amended the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, effective January 1, 2014, to make it unlawful for those who publish criminal records information, including mugshots, to accept payment or other consideration for the removal or modification of such information. 

The Illinois legislature probably thought that these websites would just quit posting pictures if they no longer could accept money to remove them. However, it seems that the more likely scenario is that the websites will continue to post the pictures, but the subjects of the pictures will no longer have any way to remove them. I guess I'd rather have the option of paying the extortionists fee than not. If anyone has any questions about the removal of your mugshot from the internet, or the expungement process in general, feel free to give me a call. 

Public Act 098-0555 (eff. Jan. 1, 2014) (adding 815 ILCS 505/2QQQ new).

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