In a surprising turn-of-events, the owners of Mugshots.com have been arrested in South Florida based on extortion and money laundering charges that originated in California. Mugshots.com is a website that uploads arrest records and photographs taken during booking – commonly called mugshots – and offers to take them off the website for payment. Recent legal updates in California and Florida classified the website’s business model as cyber-extortion, making it illegal to charge people money to conceal their mugshots.
When someone is arrested, charged, or convicted for a crime, the marks on their criminal arrest record can be viewed by the public by navigating preexisting legal channels. To remove those marks from the view of the public, people can pursue various record sealing options, which vary from state-to-state. Mugshots.com effectively interferes with this established legal process by taking matters into its own hands and mimicking government records. Even if someone accomplishes record sealing officially, they would still have to pay a heavy fee to the website to totally hide their record. There is also no guarantee that Mugshots.com would not simply re-upload the same information to a secondary website and once again demand a fee.
(For more information about this ongoing story, you can click here to view a full article posted by WPTV West Palm Beach, an NBC affiliate newsgroup.)
Underlying Issues with Mugshot Removal Laws
Florida’s new law regarding mugshot removal does not have the same teeth and strength that California’s similar laws possess. Under the Florida statute taking effect July 1st, 2018, the legal remedies will be to first demand removal by the company or party publishing the booking and arrest records. If that party does not comply, then the petitioner can seek an injunction and request a $1,000-per-day civil penalty for non-compliance.
The Florida statutes also provide for a civil action to be brought under Florida deceptive/unfair trade practices laws, but no criminal sanctions. This means a company could refuse to take down mugshots as long as it did not fear the civil penalties, knowing it would never come to being slammed with criminal charges. The situation is not ideal for people with criminal records looking to clean up their past.
In addition to record sealing and/or expungement, mugshot removal is an important part of the record cleansing process after your criminal case is closed. If you need assistance with any part of these procedures, you can contact me, Miami Criminal Defense Attorney Jonathan Blecher. With more than 30 years of legal experience, my law office is poised to help you from start to finish.