Texas Legislature Cracks Down on Regulation of Internet Mugshot Publishers

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Starting September 1, 2013, there is new law regarding the publishing of mugshots and associated information on the Internet. The new “mugshot law” certainly highlights why you need to hire a competent lawyer to handle your expunction or nondisclosure to make sure the mugshot businesses remove your mugshot and booking information from the web. This is because the new law does not place the burden on the mugshot business to remove or correct any of your information–unless they receive notice from you first. Now, let’s go over a little background on how we got here.

images.jpegThe mugshot publishing industry is an Internet niche of private businesses that publish mugshots of individuals arrested by law enforcement agencies. This industry has exploded over the past few years. In fact, it has been reported that more than 60 new mugshot websites have been created in a two-year period ending in March 2013. As can be imagined, this growth has in turn spawned the Internet mugshot removal industry, which is a niche industry of businesses that charge a fee to have the mugshot removed from one or more websites.

The mugshots and the arrested individual’s information are published regardless of whether or not the person has been found guilty or not guilty of the crime they were arrested for. Because of this and that many of the online websites charge fees to remove mugshots and arrest profiles, the industry has become increasingly controversial. Some sites may remove information for free if the person is able to show proof that they were found not guilty, or that the charges were dropped. Typically sites will charge a fee regardless of the disposition of the case. This controversy has led some state legislatures to propose bills to regulate the industry.

Texas is one of those states enacting legislation on September 1, 2013 in an effort to regulate the websites and to provide relief to individuals that were found not guilty of the crimes they were accused of. During its 2013 legislative session, the Texas State Senate passed two bills regulating the businesses that publish mugshots and accept payment to remove the information. It now requires the business to publish a mailing address, e-mail address, or a fax number to allow people to contact the business. Any individual may contact the business disputing the accuracy of the information being published by the business. The business has 45 days to respond, in writing, about the dispute and the results of its investigation into the dispute. The bill also forbids these businesses from publishing the arrest records of anyone who has not been convicted and establishes a fine for those businesses that do so. And these fines add up if a person has had a criminal offense expunged or nondisclosed from their record and the business continues to publish the mugshot following notice of the expunction or nondisclosure to the tune of $500 a day. Also, if a person who prevails in a lawsuit against the business may recover court costs and attorney’s fees.

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