Proposed Provision in NC Budget Would Restrict Posting of Online Jail Mugshots

Raleigh criminal lawyer

A provision in the Senate budget bill passed in June 2014 would create restrictions for online jail mug shots and ban companies from charging people to take them down. In Wake County and surrounding areas, mugshots are posted by news publications such as the News & Observer and WRAL. Usually, the mugshots are for individuals charged with felony crimes and people charged with misdemeanors are not posted. However, there is an entire industry that posts mugshots when people are charged and then require payment to have it removed, which some consider to be a form of extortion. These fees can range into the thousands of dollars. If a person is subsequently acquitted of the charge or the charges are dismissed, the fees still apply to request removal. For news organizations, requests can currently be made for removal, but doing so is at the discretion of the publisher.

The new bill would change that and would provide greater protection for those charged with a crime but later exonerated. It would require a publisher of either a print or online publication to remove any mug shots and any other personal or criminal record information within 15 days when requested to do so, provided the person’s charges were dismissed or they were acquitted. If the website or paper refuses, they would be fined $100 per week. After 45 days, there would be a “presumption of defamation of character.”

If a person or organization requests a copy of a mug shot they must provide a written statement promising not to post the photo on a website that requires a fee for it to be removed.

If the budget passes with this provision in it, it would be a great protection for the privacy of people that have been cleared of any wrongdoing or criminal activity.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.