Regardless of the reasons for an arrest, one of the first steps when entering the criminal justice system is a mugshot. Depending on state laws, mugshots can be made publicly available online in as little as 24 hours, and some people are making a profit from this. Unfortunately, a mugshot may be the reason why you don’t get an offer for a job, or why you can’t buy the house that you want.
Mugshot sites can display these pictures and even sell them to shady newspapers or magazines. A simple search for your mugshot will tell you how many sites are displaying it. If for whatever reason you have a mugshot that appears on internet searches, you may want to have it erased. But, is this possible?
Legal Grounds to Have Your Mugshot Erased
You may have grounds to demand that your mugshot is taken down from any site if:
- You got the record expunged. This applies especially to the cases in which you were a minor when you got convicted.
- You entered the system but you were found not guilty
- If the charges against you were dropped
- If, for whatever reason, you never got convicted
- If you had your records sealed
If any of these apply to you, you may want to start by emailing the sites where your mugshot is being shown. In most cases, due to each site’s own policies, they will comply. If this does not happen, you may need to get a court order to make them do so. Removing your information from the public domain is difficult but not impossible.
A First Step
When information about someone is deemed harmful or risky, search engines may suppress it from their search results; and the only thing you need to do is ask. Send a letter explaining your situation and why this affects you. While there is no guarantee that they will proceed as you ask, it is always worth the try.
If your mugshot ceases to appear on search engine results, it is way more complicated to find it. This does not mean that it will not remain on certain websites and if someone is performing an extensive background check on you, chances are, they will find it.
Paying to Have Your Mugshot Erased
Some criminal law experts go as far as to deem mugshot sites as extortion sites. They claim that something so sensitive as a mugshot should not be made public under any circumstances. Some will say that paying a service to have your mugshot erased will not get you very far, as most of them do not follow up if the mugshot is taken down and then reposted. Others believe that it’s money well spent.
In the end, it all depends on your situation and your reasons behind wanting to get it erased. Because services to erase your mugshot from multiple sites can be expensive, you need to weigh in the real benefits and ask for a written contract in which they clearly state their reach and commitments.
If you are Dealing with Harassment or Extortion
If someone is trying to get money from you or you are being harassed because of a mugshot, get help. Even when the mugshot may be in the public domain, there are ways to protect yourself and organizations that offer help. One way to do this is to use copyright laws.
It is important to understand that extortion is always a crime and that you have the right to privacy. Getting a lawyer to represent you, in this case, is the first step to protect yourself. Never agree to pay someone who is trying to extort you, as in most cases, they will not stop at a first payment.