Websites that post police mug shots and demand hundreds or even thousands of dollars for their removal will be illegal under new legislation introduced Friday by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who compares the practice to extortion.
“We’re all accountable for our behavior but that doesn’t mean somebody should make money by spreading your booking photo around the world — especially if you were never convicted of a crime,” Hill said in an announcement of his Senate bill.
The proposed legislation only targets the for-profit sites but arrest records and booking photos would still available to media outlets and interested individuals under the California Public Records Act, according to Hill’s office.
Specifically, the bill will make it illegal to solicit or accept payment to remove, correct or modify online mug shot and each violation would carry up to a $1,000 fine.
Hill described the sites as “fly-by-night enterprises that often sully reputations and hinder employment opportunities, regardless of whether charges are dropped.
One such case is that of former New York police officer and film producer Bob DeBrino who was arrested in January 2013 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated on methadone and Adderall by Glendale police but charges were dropped because the medication was prescribed, according to Hill.
However, his mug shot remains on websites demanding thousands of dollars for removal and said his business deals have collapsed as a result.
“This has been a damn nightmare,” DeBrino said in a prepared statement. “It’s about time to stand up to these con men who are ruining lives.”
Five states — Georgia, Illinois, Oregon, Texas and Utah — have passed laws restricting the practice of charging payment for mug shot removal and 14 others are introduced similar legislation this year.