A friend sends you an email titled “You need to see this.” You open it up, expecting a funny video or maybe a story about the latest outrageous antics of your least-favorite politician.
Instead, it’s a photo of you. And not just any photo – the lighting is bad, the angle unflattering, and you look absolutely terrible. It’s the worst photo ever taken of you – it’s your mugshot, and below it is a list of the crimes you were charged with. Even worse, it’s published online and everyone can see it…
The picture brings back all the memories – the night spent in jail, the bond hearing, the unmercifully uncomfortable courtroom bench where you sat for hours, and the money you paid to an attorney.
The charges were dropped, and you thought this nightmare was over. Surely, this is some kind of mistake. You send an email, asking the website operator to remove your photo and information since your case has been dismissed and you were not guilty in the first place.
You get a quick response: We will remove your mugshot, they say if you pay us.
Is it Legal to Make You Pay to Remove Your Mugshot from a Website?
The owners of the website Mugshots.com were arrested last week in Florida and charged with extortion for publishing booking photos and arrest records and then demanding that people pay to have them removed.
Arrest records and mugshots are public information – regardless of the outcome of the case. Because it is public information, it is not illegal for someone to publish the information.
However, demanding payment to remove them is illegal and it amounts to extortion.
What Does South Carolina Law Say?
The State Legislature passed a “mugshot extortion” law in 2016 that makes it illegal to do the following:
- Demand payment to remove someone’s booking photo and arrest record from a website;
- Gain access to jail records for the purpose of publishing them and demanding payment to have them removed; or
- Distribute the records to a person or business that you know will publish them and demand payment for their removal.
The criminal repercussions can include 60 days in jail and fines up to $1,000.
How Can I Get My Mugshot Removed Without Paying?
If your mugshot turns up online, you should call your SC defense attorney at Coastal Law immediately. We can request that the publisher remove the information, and they will be legally required to do so within 30 days.
If they demand payment, we will notify law enforcement.
What if they don’t demand any money, but they still won’t remove the information? If your charges have been dismissed or expunged, or if you have been found not guilty, they are still legally required to remove the information. If they don’t, we can file a lawsuit on your behalf to make them not only remove the information but also pay damages to you.
Mugshots and Online Privacy Attorneys in Myrtle Beach, Conway, Columbia, and Charleston SC
If you are being defamed online, or if a website is refusing to remove your mugshot or other personal information unless you pay them, the libel and slander personal injury lawyers at Coastal Law want to help. Call now at (843) 488-5000 or contact us online for a free consultation to find out how we can help.