Dealing with an arrest and criminal charge is difficult to begin with, but it should not follow you for the rest of your life. When I saw my clients paying extorted fees to predatory businesses to remove their booking photos or mugshots off the Internet, even after their charges were dismissed, I did something about it.
At present, local law enforcement agencies may, at their discretion, post booking photos of arrested persons on their local sheriff or county website along with a list of charges for which the individual was arrested. The secondary effect of this practice is that these mugshots are then pulled off the law enforcement websites, tagged with the persons name, and reproduced on a variety of websites and magazines (Busted Magazine, PDXmugshots.com, mugshots.com, etc.). When this happens it is incredibly difficult if not impossible to contain this information – even after charges are dismissed.
The presence of these images online wreaks havoc on the lives of people accused of crimes. It can impact employment, it’s embarrassing, and getting the images off of these websites is expensive. These businesses understand the effect that posting these images have on the lives of people accused of crimes and they take advantage of it by charging “administrative fees” for removal of these images. Generally, the fee is approximately $100 to remove the booking photo, however, once the individual pays the fee for removal from one site, they will find that their image will appear on a number of other sites. This turns into a cycle of fees and people can literally spend thousands of dollars trying to get these images off of the Internet. This is extortion.
Further, these images are also a record of arrest that would be expunged were a person eligible. Expungement is a process available in certain situations. It allows a person to have the record of either their arrest or conviction sealed. However, once the booking photo makes its way onto the internet, the record of arrest or conviction can never be effectively sealed because the image is online with the persons name and list of charges.
Seeing my clients struggle with this practice prompted me to write to my representative in the Oregon House of Representatives, Mitch Greenlick with a proposed legislative fix. Representative Greenlick invited me down to Salem to address this issue. After our meeting Rep. Greenlick fast tracked a bill and sent my proposed fix to committee in an effort to get legislation past this session, which would prevent these mugshots from being published online.
In my pursuit of a bill I have met with a number of law makers from both sides of the aisle, worked to gather information from local law enforcement officials, and made multiple trips to the Capitol to meet with lawmakers and lobbyists to address this issue.
In representing my clients I am committed to zealous advocacy both in and out of the courtroom – even when that means getting laws passed to protect them.