Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Internet Mugshot Publishing Curtailed

Internet mugshots published online haunt many for years with embarrassment.  For many, as well, the mugshots do not bear a meaningful purpose for others throughout the Internet to know.  What remains is the ill circumstance of having future employment out of reach or present employment terminated, for the inadvertent past event. The harm lingers for years.  For years’ individuals who have had a mugshot taken for a past event, have been solicited by mugshot publishers to offer their removal or correction for a fee and have been pressured into having to pay a mugshot publisher for its removal or correction.  The concern is over this business practice by Internet mugshot publishers of seeking payment for removal or correction, essentially extorting individuals.

Now Florida is joining California, Colorado, Oregon, Georgia, and several others seeking to regulate the mugshot publishing business.  The Florida legislature is considering a provision to amend Sec. 943.0585 Florida Statutes.   This amendment provides restrictions on businesses that publish on the Internet booking photographs.  They are not to solicit or receive a fee for removal.  This fee prohibition also applies for correction requests or modifications of such photographs. During the 2017 legislative session, the Florida Senate in SB 118, will place a provision long awaited by individuals who have had the grief of their photo being propagated on the Internet for a fee.

The amended provision by the Senate states as follows: “(1) Any person or entity engaged in the business of publishing or otherwise disseminating arrest booking photographs of persons who have previously been arrested through a publicly accessible print or electronic medium may not solicit or accept a fee or other form of payment to remove, correct, or modify such photographs.  The provision also states that there is a time limit by which requests are to be responded and handled by the mugshot publisher.  The provision states “Upon receipt of a written request from a person whose booking photograph is published or otherwise disseminated, or his or her legal representative, the person or entity who published or otherwise disseminated the photograph shall remove the photograph without charge within calendar days after receiving the request for removal.

The legislative effort is not without teeth in that it provides for enforcement.  Such enforcement allows for civil remedy.  The provision states “The person whose arrest booking photograph was published or otherwise disseminated in the publication or electronic medium may bring a civil action to enjoin the continued publication or dissemination of the photograph if the photograph is not removed within 10 calendar days after receipt of the written request for removal.”  If the mugshot publisher does not timely comply with the request to remove or correct the publication from a person whose arrest booking photograph was published or otherwise disseminated in the publication or electronic medium, a civil remedy of $1,000 for each day of noncompliance will be imposed along with an injunction.  Attorney fees are as well provided along with court costs related to the issuance of the injunction.

Compounding the strength of the provision is the allowance for the consideration that if the request for removal by a person whose arrest booking photograph was published or otherwise disseminated in the publication or electronic medium is refused after there has been a written request, such refusal will be deemed as an unfair or deceptive trade practice in accordance with part II of Chapter 501, Florida Statutes. The caveat to note is that this provision does not apply does not apply to any person or entity that publishes or disseminates information relating to arrests unless the person or entity solicits or accepts payment to remove the information.  Nevertheless, the concerns shared by many about their past and having the need to correct a record or to remove a digital online publication of a mugshot, are being now addressed in Florida.

Lorenzo Law Firm is “Working to Protect your Business, Ideas, and Property on the Web." Copyright 2017, all rights reserved Lorenzo Law Firm, P.A.

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