New Legislation Targets Websites That Publish Mug Shots

Websites that publish arrest mug shots and charge people to remove them may soon face legal sanctions in California, thanks to new legislation unanimously approved by the state legislature today.

Senate Bill 1027, sponsored by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would make it a crime for websites to charge a fee to remove, correct or modify mug shots and fine them up to $1,000 for each violation, according to Hill’s office.

The mug shot scheme, which Hill said “amounts to extortion,” is a growing practice, according to Hill’s office.

“We’re all accountable for our behavior, but that doesn’t mean someone should make money by spreading your booking photo on the Web – especially if you were never convicted for a crime,” Hill said in a statement.

More than half of all arrests in California never lead to a charge or conviction, but the online mug shots have the potential to ruin reputations and job prospects, Hill’s office said.

The legislation now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature or veto.

The bill would not restrict access to mug shots by individual members of the public or the media, according to Hill’s office.

At least seven other states have laws to restrict websites from charging a fee to remove a mug shot, and at least 11 other states have introduced similar legislation this year, according to Hill’s office.

Drew Himmelstein, Bay City News

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