How To Remove Your Mugshot From The Internet After a Criminal Arrest
So, you got arrested…now what? Aside from the embarrassment, humiliation, possible incarceration, expense, and stress, there are ways to mitigate the situation and take back control of your life. R&R Law Group in Scottsdale, AZ wants to help you do just that!
You have just discovered that your picture, your mugshot, that was lifted from a public government website is now being shared by unscrupulous operators on various websites that showcase mugshots of all people who have been arrested. One mugshot posting seems to divide and quickly start multiplying as an army of bots (robots)begin to scour the Internet and rapidly begin disseminating your photo. Most of these websites are run by shady operators that are out-of-state or even offshore where regulations are often lax. Only website operators that are classified as newspapers are legally allowed to post mugshots. Some of the corrupt bot networks go by the names of Mugshots.com, Rapsheets.org, and Arrests.org, just to name a few. Often times they are run by the same organization under different aliases.
Almost all states have legislation or pending legislation addressing the lawlessness of these mugshot postings. Always check your state statutes regarding your local laws. Utilizing unethical and deceptive tactics by convincing you to believe that you can pay to have your mugshot removed usually guarantees that your mugshot will begin to appear on even more websites. Once there is a record of an arrestee having paid to have a mugshot removed, that person becomes a target for further extortion and exploitation. State legislation addressing the financial incentive for these companies to post mugshots and arrest information next to advertising, usually background check companies or the like, is almost always illegal. According to Arizona Law A.R.S. 44-7902 (B) A mugshot website operator may not use criminal justice records or the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and other information contained in criminal justice records for the purpose of soliciting business for pecuniary gain, including requiring the payment of a fee or other valuable consideration in exchange for removing or revising criminal justice records that have been published on a website or other publication.
There are four ways to address this troubling mugshot situation and they are as follows:
- Mugshot removed Automatically/Do Nothing
- Mugshot removed after Case Dismissal
- Mugshot removed by Demand Letter
- Mugshot removed by Suppression
Automatic/Do Nothing. This approach operates on the principle that your picture will automatically drop-off of government websites as more recent mugshot photos are added. With every new arrest, your photo gets bumped to the next page, in a manner of speaking. It can take a while depending upon how many new arrests are made in your jurisdiction, but eventually, your photo will wind up on page 16. Arizona has 15 pages of mugshots and it usually takes 3 to 4 days depending on arrest volume. At that point your mugshot is unsearchable.
Case Dismissal. If your case is legally dismissed, sealed, or expunged and you can provide proof of such to these operators, most will take down your mugshot photo. It will require writing a letter or email requesting that they take it down and then following up with a phone call, but it is an effective method.
Demand Letter. This method for removal requires writing an assertive letter or having a law firm such as R&R Law Group write a letter, referencing state statutes, and the legal remedies/stiff fines for continuing to post your mugshot when it is surrounded by advertisements that are usually for companies selling background checks. These operators profit off of criminal arrest records and many states, including Arizona, have passed laws making this illegal. The fines add up quickly and are effective in gaining compliance from the website operator.
Per Arizona Law A.R.S. 44-7902 (D), the legal penalties are as follows:
- $100 per day during the first thirty days of the violation.
- $200 per day during the subsequent thirty days of the violation.
- $500 per day for each day thereafter.
However, keep in mind that these legal penalties do not apply to any act performed for the purpose of disseminating news to the public according to A.R.S. 44-7902 (E)
A link to a Demand Letter template has been provided below. You are welcome to tailor this letter to your situation and use it. Remember to include a photo of your mugshot with your letter. You can paste a screenshot of your mugshot attaching it as an exhibit.
Suppression. One of the most effective methods is to suppress your mugshot with more relevant data. Someone said, “The best place to hide a body is on the 2nd page of Google.” By putting more relevant data about you out on the Internet by utilizing what is known as Online Reputation Management techniques, you are effectively outranking the mugshot websites. The fancy term for this is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Ninety percent of people aren’t going to search past the first page, and it is an effective method for burying a mugshot photo. By gathering your assets like your LinkedIn profile, your Twitter account, your Facebook account, your volunteer activities, new photos, etc. and then organizing it, you are giving Google, Bing, or Yahoo more valuable data that will rank higher than your mugshot. You are creating assets that Google likes. Creating a 6-month suppression campaign where your online presence and social profiles are built out and populated with valuable content can pay big dividends!
Mugshot Removal Recap:
*Mugshots on government websites may disappear with time. If that is the case, be patient!
*If you get your case dismissed, they will probably take it down. Find information about the offending website policy and send a request.
*Many sites respond to Demand Letters. Download our free demand letter, research your local law, and send it.
*Start a Suppression Campaign. Build out your online presence, social profiles, and populate with content.
R&R Law Group will provide a free case review with their team. This includes an Online Reputation Audit and Removal/Suppression Campaign. Please contact them at 480-787-0394 for details.