Mugshot Removal State Laws

Many mug shot publishing companies have emerged in recent years, to wide displeasure. These companies take mugshots and booking information obtained from law enforcement and post it to their website, in an attempt to generate traffic and attention to your arrest.

This is seen as unfair or at least unnecessary to those who believe in the law’s ability to hold a person accountable for their past infractions. Mug shot publishing companies are in essence rubbing dirt in the wounds of people who have served a sentence of punishment for their mistake.

The tragedy occurring is that many people are hurt by these postings due to an inability to find fulfilling employment, not to mention a shameful reception before the eyes of their community. The fact that many of these companies publish mugshots and booking records of people who were charged but never convicted is too inexplicable to deserve consideration. Regardless, a foolish decisions made in contrast to one’s vast history of honorable behavior, or perhaps in one’s youth, most likely does not reflect that person’s shortcomings as a professional. It definitely does not reflect an immoral character or merit public humiliation.

Many states have pushed for their legislative branches to regulate the mug shot publishing industry, in an attempt to mitigate the damage that these publishing companies create. In April of 2014, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law a piece of legislation that prohibits Mugshots.org from obtaining arrest booking mug shots in Georgia with the intention of posting them on their website and charging people to take them down. Earlier in April of 2013, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed into law legislation of a similar nature. Other states, such as New Jersey, Oregon, and Texas, have recently passed legislation that require mug shot publishing companies to remove mug shots of people who were not convicted of the crimes they were charged with. Looming largest in the industry is a bill that reached the California State Assembly in April of 2014. This bill would make it unlawful in California “to solicit or accept payment to remove, correct, or modify mug shots online.” As is evident, state legislatures are taking action on behalf of their constituents.

The government is limited, however, in its power to limit the dissemination of negative information. First, the Freedom of Information Act makes arrest records available to the public. Second, the government can step in during instances of collusion but the First Amendment protects the right to publish most information. To be clear, a number of state governments have established precedent to prohibit publishing companies from charging people to remove mug shots, but they cannot stop people from publishing and disseminating mug shots.

Luckily for those who have paid for a past crime and wish to move forward with a clean slate, there are independent companies that do not have to pay mug shot publishing companies to suppress the negative press they intend to create. These companies offer comprehensive reputation management campaigns that promote a positive online presence for their clients, a presence that more accurately represents the interests of the client. The American legal system stands out as a beacon of justice to those around the world, but a reputation is still too important to leave in the hands of lawmakers.