The Denson Firm

Is Your Mugshot Mugging You of Your Constitutional Rights?

is_your_mugshot_mugging_you_of_your_constitutional_rights_blogHow the Press Uses Your Mugshot to Gain More Viewers

I’m a big believer in the First Amendment. However, the rise of newspapers using mugshots to drive traffic has been of obvious concern.

I’ve had many clients who’ve had cases dropped, dismissed, or their records sealed only to find their mugshot remains on a newspaper's website.

Some of these sites have agreed to remove mugshots or stories upon receiving proof that the case was dismissed. And, other news agencies have agreed to add an Addendum to the beginning of the story explaining that the case was dismissed.

While I don't agree that the government should be allowed to censor public information, I’ve not been comfortable with the press being the arbiter of that information either.

Publishing Your Mugshot Regardless of Guilt

Many newspaper websites fail to have any policy for unpublishing or adding Addendums to information on the Internet, even if that information is incorrect. Obviously, this causes difficulty for people who have been wrongfully arrested and for people trying to move forward with their lives.

That said, I was interested in reading an article by Matt Waite on his development of the Tampa Bay Times mugshot site.

Mr. Waite and his development team recognized several problems with publishing mugshots. The biggest problems include the fact that just because a person was arrested doesn't mean they’re guilty, and once published, this data has a life of its own.

Removing Your Mugshot Through Fair Publishing

It’s encouraging to see that not only did they recognize the problems inherent in publishing mugshots, but they also cared enough to create a database and site that effectively deals with those issues.

Specifically, the Tampa Bay Times is,

  • Including coding that prevents Google from indexing the information on the site
  • Deleting the mugshots after 60 days on the site

I do feel the steps they’ve taken to be a fair balance of publishing newsworthy information without creating a long-term hardship for people. I hope other news sites follow suit.

And if you need an advocate on your side to assist in removing your mugshot from the Internet, contact us today.

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