Joseph A. Lombardo
Police images from your arrest for public drunkenness a few years back keeps showing up in search engine results and on mug shot websites all over the Internet. Your face is everywhere – along with your personal information. You contact the websites to take down the pictures, but they won’t budge. Some offer to remove them for a fee, but that’s sounds like extortion. Are mug shot websites breaking the law by profiting from your youthful indiscretions? Our criminal attorneys examine the relevant laws to find the truth.
Public Information is Always Available
Your mug shot from your arrest, along with any other information the police choose to include, is a matter of public record – anyone can take a gander whenever they want. A website isn’t doing anything illegal by posting the information included in the report, including your less-than-flattering picture as content fodder. Asking them politely to take it down may work, but if the owners make a living on advertising revenue based on visitors to their little corner of the web, getting it to vanish may be difficult to impossible.
Sealed Records and Mug Shots
If the court sealed the record of your conviction, then any information pertaining to the arrest and subsequent sentence, including your mug shot, is out of the public domain. A website posting the photo and any information relating to the sealed court records is breaking the law and potentially violating your civil rights. Speaking with an experienced attorney can give you a clearer picture as to your options to both compel the site to take down your image and pursue money damages from them.
Extortion and Your Criminal Past
Profiting from someone else’s misfortune is a shady way to earn a living, especially if the practice is tantamount to extortion. Lawsuits filed by those who wouldn’t pay fees to mug shot websites to remove their images for expunged records or dismissed charges have popped up all over the country. The suits allege extortion on the part of sites for reportedly charging fees to remove images that shouldn’t have been available in the first place, according to Reuters. If successful, plaintiffs could establish compelling case law that could enable others with arrest photos on these sites to force their removal.
Search Engine Rankings and Your Name
Going on the attack with modern search engine optimization (SEO) techniques can help push your incriminating photos down in the rankings. This means, searchers using Google or a less popular search engine won’t find your photo as readily. Of course, if you can’t do the reputation management on your own, you may have to hire a firm to do it for you. Those aren’t usually cheap, but if you can’t get the photo taken down, it may be your only option to avoid reliving the worst night of your life on a daily basis.
If you believe a website has wronged you by posting false or private information for the public, you may be entitled to damages. Our New Jersey lawyers can provide you with a free explanation of your rights, and help you explore your legal options to hold those you harmed you accountable.
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