Imagine if after being arrested for a DUI you see your mug shot posted online or in print publications. This may cause embarrassment, and negatively impact your reputation and career prospects. Even if you are never convicted of the charge, you may still have to deal with businesses publishing your mug shot for profit.
“Just Busted” is a newspaper in Tennessee and other Southern states where readers can view mug shots of Tennessee DUI suspects and those charged with other crimes. Many would argue that it is unfair to publish pictures of the accused before they are proven guilty, but such publications generally have no concerns about the practice.
The mug shot business has also proliferated online. Mug shot websites make money by advertisements, but also by charging people to have their mug shots removed. It often costs individuals hundreds of dollars to have their pictures and personal information taken down.
After she was arrested for driving under the influence, one woman from Florida said she ended up paying $850 to get her mug shot deleted from several websites. She paid $50 to one site, and $399 to two other companies to remove her information. The woman said she didn’t take advantage of the websites’ “combo deal” to remove her information from multiple sites. Even after paying the money, however, her picture remained on one site for an additional 15 days.
Those in the business say DUI mug shots can be the most profitable. Those arrested for DUI are more likely to pay for mug shot removal than repeat criminal offenders. The owner of a site that removes mug shots explained how certain groups are targeted, “There’s a perception that white, blonde women will pay to remove their pictures,” he continued, “Especially with a DUI, they make it on the sites all the time.”
Although publishing mug shots for profit is legal, some question the practice of such websites saying it’s close to extortion.
Source: ABC News, “Businesses Charge Hundreds to Remove Mug Shots Online,” Susanne Kim, April 23, 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/Business/businesses-make-profit-copying-mug-shots-online-critics/story?id=16157378
(Jerry Summers is a veteran Chattanooga attorney with DUI defense as one of his specialties. His blog is at http://www.summersandwyatt.com/blog/. He can be reached at Summers & Wyatt, P.C., 735 Broad St., Suite 800. 423 265-2385 or firstname.lastname@example.org)