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Mug Shot Sites May be Reined In

Posted by Sean A. Black | Oct 07, 2013 | 0 Comments

Georgia has begun the process of trying to put limitations on the use that certain web sites make of Georgia booking photos.  These mug shot sites sell advertising on their pages that contain individual arrest photographs of persons arrested for various offenses.  The fact of arrest and the booking photographs are treated, at this time, as public information which can be obtained by an Open Records Act request.  These sites make bulk requests for all persons arrested and booked at a particular facility.

A new Georgia law, effective July 1, 2013, provides a mechanism that allows some Georgia arrestees to obtain removal of their photograph from these sites.  If the person's case was dismissed or disposed of in such a way that expungement or records restriction would be appropriate, the person can make a written request for removal of the photograph.  It is worth noting that the site is only required to remove the photograph, not the booking information or the person's name.  The request must be sent by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery.  The law is set out at OCGA 10-1-393.5.

These mug shots can do great damage to people based on arrests for charges that are not yet proven or which may be years old at the time that the information is viewed.  For this reason, many people have sought other means of having their pictures and information removed from these sites.  When they do so, they discover that the websites are more than willing to remove the photograph and information, for a price.  The problem is that there are many of these sites and more of them pop up all the time.  So, it becomes a very expensive game of Whack-a-Mole.

Finally, the marketplace may be responding to the damage of this type of enterprise.  A recent article reports that Google is taking steps to make sure that these mug shot sites do not show up on the first page of its search results.   This will make the sites less profitable.

In addition, many large credit card processors are considering severing business ties with this type of business.

About the Author

Sean A. Black

Sean A. Black is a 1992 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He has been in private practice in Toccoa, Georgia since June 1, 1992.

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