Daytona Beach News Journal by Frank Fernandez
Mug shot websites will be prohibited from charging people for removing their jail photographs because of a new Florida law that takes effect Saturday.The sites will also have to remove the mug shots upon request or face a fine.The new law applies only to sites that charge a fee for the removal of mug shots — which critics describe as a kind of cyber mugging. It also requires the removal of mug shots without charge within 10 days of a written request. It applies to jail photos that are publicly accessible both in print and electronic media.
The law also included a failed amendment which would have perfunctorily sealed more than a million criminal records.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal in general does not remove content from its websites, but in the rare exceptions a mug shot is removed, there is no charge.
The mug shot law was proposed as Senate Bill 118 by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, who said in a phone interview that it is intended to help people who have had their criminal records legally expunged but are faced by privately run websites charging them as much as $2,500 to remove their photos.
“The operators of these websites are leaving their mug shots up and extorting money to remove their mug shots,” Steube said.
If a website does not remove a mug shot within 10 days of receiving a written request by registered mail with sufficient proof of the identity of the requester, then the website’s operator could face a fine of up to $1,000 per day plus attorneys fees and court cost related to enforcing a court order to remove the mug shots.
The outcome of the person’s case requesting the mug shot’s removal, whether the person was guilty, not guilty or the charges were dismissed or never filed is not addressed in the law.
“I think personally it’s unconstitutional. But it’s really not our issue,” Petersen said.
But she was worried Section 2, which was added to the bill later and would allow the automatic sealing of criminal records by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That section would have sealed the arrest records of anyone who was acquitted, found not guilty of charges or simply not prosecuted, without any review. [READ MORE]