Mug shot mania E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

If people can make a buck they will no matter how odd the business seems. And mug shots of the famous have been bringing in big bucks for years. The newest mug shot start-ups - Mugshots, BustedMugshots and JustMugshots - make their money (from $30 to $400, or even higher) by posting mug shots and information about the arrest and then charging to take the picture down.
As everyone in law enforcement knows, mug shots are just an artifact of the arrest.

They are not proof of conviction and many of the people who adorn these sites have had the charges against them dropped. But the postings can have a disastrous impact for people looking for a job and those who don’t have the money to pay to have the picture taken down.

David Segal, a New York Times reporter, recently wrote an indepth piece about the phenomenon entitled,  “Mugged by a Mug Shot Online,” for the Times.

Segal writes, “The sites are perfectly legal, and they get financial oxygen the same way as other online businesses — through credit card companies and PayPal. Some states, though, are looking for ways to curb them. The governor of Oregon signed a bill this summer that gives such sites 30 days to take down the image, free of charge, of anyone who can prove that he or she was exonerated or whose record has been expunged. Georgia passed a similar law in May. Utah prohibits county sheriffs from giving out booking photographs to a site that will charge to delete them.

“But as legislators draft laws, they are finding plenty of resistance, much of it from journalists who assert that public records should be just that: public.

“The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argues that any restriction on booking photographs raises First Amendment issues and impinges on editors’ right to determine what is newsworthy. That right was recently exercised by newspapers and Web sites around the world when the public got its first look at Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard gunman, through a booking photograph from a 2010 arrest.

“MUG shots have been online for years, but they appear to have become the basis for businesses in 2010, thanks to Craig Robert Wiggen, who served three years in federal prison for a scheme to lift credit card numbers from diners at a Tex-Mex restaurant in Tallahassee, Fla. He was looking for another line of work, according to news articles, and started Florida.arrests.org.

“The idea soon spread, and today there are more than 80 mug-shot sites. They Hoover up most of their images from sheriffs’ Web sites, where rules and policies about whose mug shot is posted and for how long can vary, from state to state and from county to county.

“The sites are designed for easy ogling. Some feature a running scroll of the famous (Lindsay Lohan), the infamous (James E. Holmes, accused in the Aurora, Colo., mass shooting) and the obscure but colorful (a man with an American flag painted on his face and bald head).”


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