Man with a Scale in Hand- Do Mugshots Unfairly Brand Innocent People As Guilty?

Mug Shot Access Laws Change to Protect the Accused

July 2021, a new law will go into effect that prohibits law enforcement in Utah from releasing the mug shots (photos taken after arrest during the booking process) of people charged with crimes before conviction. Reportedly, some policing agencies have already begun enforcing the ban as a new department policy so that news media will no longer have access to mug shots shortly after booking suspects, as they have had until now.

Perpetual Online Mug Shots

With the system operating as it has been, a defendant may be found innocent, but the accused face and name may stay visible in mug shots. Those photos often remain posted across many websites for years after someone is exonerated!

Plus, instant social media connections can generate immediate widespread condemnation of an accused person across social sites. The unfair judgment can cause lasting damage to an innocent person’s reputation long after they have been acquitted in court.

One accused person reportedly told KSLTV, a local Utah NBC affiliate, that people have continued to assume he is guilty due to the ubiquitous presence of his police booking photos on the internet. He reportedly said, “My whole life has just been turned upside down because of this.”

Consequences to Innocent People from Public Mug Shots

In the above example, widely published mugshots continued to damage the man’s business. He reportedly commented to KSLTV that it’s just very easy for people to Google someone’s name these days. He added that in that environment, “It’s a scarlet letter around your neck. I’m going to live with this the rest of my life.”

The ongoing consequences for innocent people can include difficulties obtaining employment or gaining acceptance into advanced academic institutions and programs or neighborhood social groups. Such stigmatization from having a public presence as an accused criminal can even destroy families and a person’s reputation and status in their community.

Predatory Mug Shot Removal Services

Making matters worse, innocent people who rightfully should have their mugshots removed from websites are often forced by mug shot removal services to pay very high fees to get their images taken down from sites.

Mug shots in the U.S. have been considered public records free for publication. So, companies have been allowed to do digital scraping of police sites to obtain the booking photo images and republish them quickly on their websites. These mugshot re-publishers have claimed that the practice is their right under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Some media outlets have voluntarily stopped publishing mug shots prior to the enactment of the new law. Also, at least 18 state legislatures have reportedly recently moved to regulate so-called mug shot removal services. However, PEW research has found that the new laws have generally been ineffective so far in actually stopping the predatory behavior of the mug shot removal businesses.

Establishing Your Innocence and Restoring Your Life

The best approach to regaining control of your life is, of course, building the best possible defense to avoid conviction. You will need to work with the criminal defense attorney to ensure that all your rights are protected throughout the legal process and to stand up and fight for you in court.

We are the #1 team of criminal lawyers in Salt Lake City. We have successfully defended thousands of people against criminal charges in Utah. We immediately start working to achieve your exoneration. Our aggressive approach has proven highly effective in court over the years and has distinguished us as the best criminal defense attorney in Utah.

If you are facing criminal charges in Utah and need the best criminal lawyer, call Wasatch Defense Lawyers in Salt Lake City, UT. at (801) 980-9965, or contact us online to schedule your free case review.

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Craig R. Chlarson
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