Some States Act Against Mugshot Site Abuse; Journalists Resist Curbs

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The New York Times takes a look at for-profit websites with names like Mugshots, BustedMugshots and JustMugshots that publish booking photos. The ostensible point is to give the public a quick way to glean the unsavory history of a neighbor, a potential date or anyone else. The Times says, “That sounds civic-minded, until you consider one way most of these sites make money: by charging a fee to remove the image. That fee can be anywhere from $30 to $400, or even higher.” Many people whose images are on display were never found guilty, or the charges were dropped. The pictures can cause serious reputational damage. Oregon has enacted a law that gives such sites 30 days to take down the image, free of charge, of anyone who can prove that he or she was exonerated or whose record has been expunged. Georgia passed a similar law. Utah bars county sheriffs from giving out booking photographs to a site that will charge to delete them. Journalists assert that public records should be public. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argues that any restriction on booking photographs raises First Amendment issues and impinges on editors' right to determine what is newsworthy.

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