A Picture Worth 1,000 Words/Dollars/Haters

photodogs(A puppy mug shot, because they really are guilty)

Something I’ve struggled with a for a long time? Internet mug shots.

Over the last few years, the explosion of private companies posting mug shots on the internet has been devastating for almost every one who has been arrested. These companies post your ever-so-flattering photo with your charges with the only remedy being your contacting them to have it removed by paying a fee. Problem is, there are handfuls of companies doing this, making a fortune and the cost of ‘clearing your name’ can end up costing thousands of dollars. Another problem arising from this ‘public information’ is the name recognition on Google. An employer searches your name, your photo comes up with charges, yet the charges were dismissed/nolle prosequi/dead docketed, and suddenly it looks as if you lied. (I recognize there are plenty of arguments regarding pending charges and disclosing that in a job interview but most applications inquire about convictions. I also recognize that some counties make their court calendars available online, but this usually doesn’t come up on Google)

When I worked at the Capitol, we received call after call asking for legislation banning the companies that do this and/or help in rectifying false information. At first, I thought it was pretty crappy on the part of the company, and maybe it is, but the Liberty in me says there is nothing you can do. Is this a path we want to start walking down? Banning entrepreneurial companies? The idea is brilliant and a perpetual gold mine. When folks are desperate to get those photos down, they’re going to pay whatever is necessary. Especially those folks who weren’t convicted.

So here is where I’m at now:

  •  We do not need any more legislation, mostly because the issue does not stem from the companies. It’s coming from the police agencies
  • I’m all for public knowledge and private entities. After all, it is public information and it’s often times printed in the paper (but I’m not really on board with that concept either). Do we REALLY need mug shots of pending charges? I understand that companies will remove the photo, however, we are circumventing the whole ‘presumption of innocence’ thing.
  • We are supposed to operate under the notion that you are ‘innocent until proven guilty’, so why are we exploiting people’s charges and photos when things are still in the “allegations” stage? Why are we not pressuring law enforcement agencies to only publish records of the ‘guilty’ ones. There’s a reason the Sex Offender Registry is just for the convicted folks. (#liability)

I don’t want restriction or regulation, I just want to see our police agencies focus on punishing those who are convicted of a crime instead of tarnishing those who have the unfortunate privilege of wading through the justice system. Everyone knows someone who has been a victim of our legal process so we can’t say these things are rare occurrences. I am real tired of people associating charges with guilt. And most of them won’t change their mind unless they are under the gun (pun intended) and charged with a crime they did not commit.


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