Everlasting evidence: Online companies cashing in on mug shots

Everlasting evidence: Online companies cashing in on mug shots

Everlasting evidence: Online companies cashing in on mug shots

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by SHARON KO

KENS 5 San Antonio

Posted on February 5, 2014 at 11:33 AM

SAN ANTONIO -- There's a growing trend on the Internet where online companies are using mug shots and asking for hundreds, even thousands of dollars to take them down. Legally, there's no state law that makes this a crime.

One woman in San Antonio fears her reputation is on the line.

The woman WFAA sister station KENS 5 spoke with did not want to show her face on camera. She admits to writing a check without enough money in her bank account.
 
Later, the courts forgave her and her record is listed as not guilty. But years later, she is still reminded of her offense through these websites.
 
"It's embarrassing. I think it is wrong. I know whatever we did to get arrested is wrong, but it's wrong to just put it up for anybody to go just look at it. Because it's still our privacy. And you still don't know the whole story," the woman said.
 
Websites are getting these photos, available to the public, through a sheriff’s office or police department and asking for several hundred dollars to take a photo down.
 
Newly passed legislation in Texas requires that websites remove a photo only if it falls under three guidelines.
 
One, if the posted information is not true.
 
"If you were to go online and find your mug shot is listed online and with someone else's name for instance, then you could, through the appeals process provided by the legislature, you can ask for that information to be removed," said attorney James Reeves. 
 
A picture must also be removed if the person can show proof of an expunction. That’s as if the charges never existed.
 
Another reason a website must take down a mug shot is if the record of the crime is sealed. 
 
The current legislation does not require a website to take down a photo if a person’s record shows not guilty or even if charges were dropped. 
 
One website no longer accepts payments and said on its page that it is in the process of changing its removal policy. The website offers a link to a company specializing in online reputation repair, but people will still have to pay.
 
Prices range from $499 to $4,000 to get a mug shot removed. 

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