After the arrest, jail, and bond hearing, you immediately found and retained the best SC criminal defense attorney that you could find.
You didn’t do it. You were not guilty, your attorney knew you were telling the truth, and your lawyer fought tooth and nail to put together the evidence you needed and get your case dismissed. After the case was dismissed, you had all records of the arrest and prosecution expunged. Finally, the nightmare is over…
Or so you thought.
Now you’re staring at your computer screen, and staring back at you is your mugshot, in all its glory. Someone – not the police, just some company – has broadcast this humiliating piece of your life to the world. Will your boss see it? Your customers? Your mother-in-law?
You track down the website operator and ask that the information be removed, and they say they won’t remove it unless you pay them. What the…!
Luckily, South Carolina lawmakers have recognized this for what it is – blackmail – and have passed a law to put an end to it. But, of course, that doesn’t always stop people from trying.
Lawmakers Take on Mugshots.com and Other Online Blackmailers
In 2016, SC lawmakers passed the “mugshot extortion bill” to put an end to this kind of strong-arm business model. The law makes it illegal to publish information about a person’s arrest and then demand money to remove it. Specifically, the law prohibits:
- Gaining access to arrest records and booking photographs with the knowledge they will be published and used to demand payment;
- Demanding payment to remove someone’s arrest information and photograph; or
- Using a government position to distribute such records and photographs to a person or business that you know will publish it and demand payment for its removal.
Violations of the law can lead to fines of up to $1,000 or 60 days in jail. Lawmakers also authorized a cause of action for anyone who has been targeted by “mugshot extortion” to file a civil case to recover damages, costs, and attorney fees.
What If They Publish My Booking Info Anyway?
So, what do you do if your arrest information and booking photo still show up online?
You should immediately call your SC criminal defense attorney at Axelrod and Associates. We will need to:
- Send a written request via certified mail to the person or company who published it, and they are legally required to remove it within 30 days.
- Include your name, date of your arrest, and the name of the arresting agency.
- Include documentation showing that your charges were dismissed or expunged or that you were found not guilty.
- Specify the precise location – such as the web address – of the information that you want removed.
If they demand payment, we can report them to law enforcement. Anyone who publishes your arrest information and asks for money to take it down is committing a crime in SC that is punishable by jail time and fines.
What if Someone Publishes my Arrest Information but They Aren’t Demanding Payment?
Just publishing the information is not necessarily a problem – when you are charged with a crime, that information is a public record.
It is subject to Freedom of Information requests, it can be released by law enforcement or government agencies, and it can be reported by the media, individuals, or other companies.
However, even if no payment is being demanded, SC law allows you to send your written request, and, if they don’t comply, you can file a civil suit to force them to remove the information.
Once your charge has been dismissed or expunged, or you have been found not guilty, continuing to publish information about your arrest may be defamation and you may have a lawsuit against them depending on the circumstances.
If your criminal case was dismissed and expunged, but some company is still displaying your arrest and booking information for the world to see, call your SC personal injury lawyer at Axelrod and Associates today at (843) 916-9300 or fill out our online contact form to find out how we can help.