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Finding And Posting Mugshots: Is This Business Legal? 

There are few things in the modern age that can disrupt a person’s life more than having their arrest mugshot appear online. It can impact job opportunities, housing opportunities and even your social life. Imagine having a date do a Google search for your name — and your mugshot is one of the first things to appear in the search results. This happens a lot!

This is why it’s so important to protect your online reputation. If you’ve ever been arrested, there’s a good chance that your mugshot will appear online. Many people wonder: Is this business even legal?

Are Mugshot Websites Legal?

Anytime a person is arrested by the police, that arrest is a part of the public record. The booking photo taken at the police station is also a public record. Therefore, mugshot websites are technically legal — even if the individual who was arrested is later found innocent at trial.

You can see the obvious dilemma there. A mugshot only tells a small portion of the story. Lots of people get arrested, only to have the charges dropped by a prosecutor later. Sometimes a judge will dismiss the case. The mugshot becomes a moot point then, but having your mugshot posted online is still going to damage your reputation.

State Actions to Protect Against Mugshot Websites

Starting in the 2010s, a lot of states began starting to pass legal protections against mugshot websites. A total of 18 states now make it illegal for mugshot websites to charge money to remove mugshots from the internet. Those states also make some specific restrictions on when, how or under what circumstances a mugshot can be posted online.

For example, if you are acquitted or your case gets dismissed in Georgia, individuals can send a written request to a mugshot website — and that site has no more than 30 days to remove the mugshot. Other states have made it illegal for any state employee to provide mugshots or booking photos to any outside entity (mugshot websites).

States That Offer Some Protection Against Mugshot Websites

As of this writing, the following states have all made it illegal for mugshot websites to charge you money for taking down a mugshot. These states have also passed additional mugshot website protections for residents, although the laws vary a bit from state to state:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming

The Internet is Borderless

Those 18 states offer some limited protection against mugshot websites, but the remaining 32 states have not yet taken any action in this direction. And unfortunately, the internet is borderless. Just because you live in Utah doesn’t mean that a mugshot website based in Washington state, Eastern Europe, or anywhere else will not post your mugshot online.

How fast do inmates appear online? Unfortunately, your mugshot can be entered into the system and appear on a mugshot website in as little as two hours. Then it becomes a real challenge for individuals to get their mugshot taken down.

Mugshot removal services are what we specialize in. You should never pay money to a mugshot website to try to take your booking photo off the internet — that’s how the whole mugshot website industry works. Contact us to help repair your online reputation and get your mugshot removed from these shady and unethical websites!

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