Ever since 1909 Florida has believed that any records made in a public agency should be available to the public. This has been upheld in various ways and in different legislative terms. However, ruthless web entrepreneurs have taken advantage of Florida’s open government laws by posting mugshots online.
The subjects of these photos, who may not have been convicted of a crime, could google their name and stumble upon their mugshot gone viral. The Facebook page “Florida Mug Shots” has over 59,000 likes and hosts comments on daily mugshots. Websites such as florida.arrests.org continuously update the mugshots and even allow you to browse by topics such as “celebrity,” “hotties,” “scary,” and “transgender.” To remove this post, subjects can pay various amounts to have their embarrassing snaps removed. RemoveSlander.com charges $399 and advertises, “You Have Nothing to Lose But the Humiliation.”
Now, a bill was filed in Florida on February 11 that would require these websites to take down personal information of those not convicted of a crime. However, this bill would also include media publications that disclose names and photos of alleged and convicted offenders in news articles. Should websites be allowed to post these mugshots and profit by removing the pictures? Would restricting this information be against first amendment rights? Do you think this bill would pass?
Arthur D’Antonio III, owner of Justmugshots.com
Holden Green, San Jose-based criminal defense attorney who handles record-clearance cases