California bans mug shot ‘shakedowns’ by websites
• Gov. Jerry Brown signs Sen. Hill’s mug shot bill
• Takes effect January 1, 2015
Governor Jerry Brown on August 15 signed Senator Jerry Hill’s to prohibit websites from charging a fee to remove a mug shot. The law takes effect on January 1, 2015.
“These shakedowns must stop,” said Hill (Dem.-San Mateo/Santa Clara Counties). “We are all accountable for our own behavior, but these businesses aren’t about accountability — their practices amount to extortion.”
Specifically, the legislation makes it unlawful to solicit or accept payment to remove, correct or modify mug shots. A civil action may brought against any website that violates the new law.
The person or entity that brings the suit may seek damages equal to the greater of $1,000 per violation or the actual damages suffered.
The new law does not restrict access to arrest records and booking photos by the media and interested individuals.
A mug shot is included in an arrest record for identification purposes; it is not intended to imply guilt. In more than half of the cases in California, an arrest does not lead to a charge or conviction.
For example, according to the Office of the California Attorney General, 932,540 people were arrested in California in 2011, but no charges were filed or no convictions were made against 545,737 of those individuals.
Sites that post mug shots and charge fees to remove them have flourished by making the photos widely available via the Web.
In addition to California, at least seven states (Georgia, Illinois, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming) have passed laws with bipartisan support restricting the practice of charging a fee to remove a mug shot. At least 11, other states have introduced similar legislation this year.
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