Innocent until proven guilty. It’s not what you know; it is what you can prove. Each day thousands of Americans encounter a run-in with authorities; whether a person is guilty of a crime or not, the experience is sure to be an arduous one. Those who face arrest are likely to appear in court at some point; from there and depending on the outcome an offender could be looking at jail time, fines, restitution, etc. Whereas those who are found innocent, or the state is unable to bring charges due to lack of evidence, continue to live their life.
Even if a person is in the not guilty camp, the ordeal of arrest is usually an unpleasant experience. Losing one’s freedom, briefly or not, is undoubtedly traumatic for myriad reasons right from the start; and one cause of discomfort stems from lost anonymity. From the time of arrest, people find themselves now part of the criminal justice system—a network that many third parties can access and disseminate the details of to the world. Anyone who reads their local newspaper is familiar with the police blotter; it is a daily record of arrests and other events at a police station.
People who police believe are engaging in illicit activities, drinking and driving, for example, will have the mug shot taken and spend the night in the “drunk tank.” The next day the details of the offender and their charge can be seen by anyone interested in the police blotter. Embarrassing to be sure, particularly for those who receive an acquittal at a later date; although, appearing in the newspaper for a crime is (in most cases) a one-off event.
Mugshot Hostage Takers
There is a saying in the age of information that we all would be wise to remember, ‘the Internet never forgets.’ Once a person or a business shares something on the internet, making it disappear isn’t an easy undertaking. Those who use social media are aware that when they post something online, other parties can copy the information to re-share; a chain reaction effect ensues to what end no one can be sure. Some people see embarrassing info about others as an opportunity to exploit, and profit. That is the business plan of websites like Mugshots.com, et al.
When a criminal suspect has their photo taken by law enforcement agencies the pictures become public records. Websites who want to use the misfortune of others to turn a profit have, in recent years, posted people’s mugshots to their site regardless of the innocence or guilt of a suspect. There isn’t anything illegal with the practice due to open records laws. However, websites like Mugshot.com don’t stop there; in fact, they offer the people in the photos the opportunity to have their picture and info taken down for a fee.
In 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law making it illegal to charge a mugshot removal fee, The Sacramento Bee reports. And yet, Mugshots.com has not ceased and desisted; holding people’s humiliating experiences for ransom. Last week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed extortion and money laundering charges against Sahar Sarid, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, Thomas Keesee and David Usdan. All the operators of the “de-publishing fee” website Mugshots.com live in other states and face extradition to California.
“This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation,” Becerra said. “Those who can’t afford to pay into this scheme to have their information removed pay the price when they look for a job, housing, or try to build relationships with others. This is exploitation, plain and simple.”
Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over 30 years of experience, attorney Brower can give you the best chance of finding a favorable outcome.