Bill aims to take the profit out of mugshot websites

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Perhaps you’ve seen those websites that specialize in mugshots…They’re usually good for a laugh, unless your face happens to be a part of the rogue’s gallery. But state lawmakers are not amused: A bill that would require websites to remove booking photos – for free – has passed both houses of the state Legislature.

State Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo authored the bill. He says web sites that publish mugshots of people arrested in California aren’t doing it just for fun, and certainly not to enhance public safety. The reality, he says, is those web sites often contact people whose mug shots they’ve posted and offer to remove them – for a fee of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. That includes people arrested but not convicted, and even those never charged with a crime. Hill says that in 2011, for example, about 932,000 people in California were arrested. But more than 500,000 of those folks had the charges dropped or were not convicted.

The bill doesn’t distinguish between people who were convicted and those who weren’t. It would require web sites to delete the mug shots of anyone who asks for their removal. It’ now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Meanwhile, a class action lawsuit in California is challenging the right of web companies to publish mugshots without consent and to charge for their removal.