In today’s world, that part in the Constitution about innocent until proven guilty is still there. I know, I just checked just in case it was taken out in the past few days. Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers never envisioned CaseNet, Facebook and of course a Mobile Jail App.
Anyone who has been arrested may see their mugshot blasted over social media in front of all of their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. There will be some people who have no problem having the mugshots of every arrested person paraded about. However, chances are, at some point in everyone’s life, that mugshot will be of someone very close to you.
Recently, Governor Nixon signed into law §407.1151 and §407.1152. The two laws make it a misdemeanor if someone’s mugshot is used for the purpose of commerce in the event that the accused’s record is closed (i.e. if charges were not filed, dismissed or a suspended imposition of sentence was granted).
The person subjected to having their mugshot placed on the Internet must request via certified mail, in writing, that the Internet site remove the booking photo. Even then, the Internet site providing the mugshot still has thirty days to remove the photo. Funny thing about the Internet, it only takes a few seconds to copy an embarrassing photo and send it to legions of onlookers. Thirty days is plenty of time to do a lot of damage to someone’s reputation.
While these laws are the first legal restriction on the usage of mugshots, in my opinion, the law has a long way to go.
The reality is that many of the mugshots you see on a daily basis are our neighbors being arrested because they cannot afford to pay some traffic ticket. I never believed that our country wanted to publicly humiliate those who cannot afford to pay a debt. Furthermore, another group of mugshots are of people who are never charged or their charges were eventually dismissed. A final group or people are those who receive a non-conviction and their record is closed after a period of time. Is there really truly a need to have these mugshots distributed instantaneously throughout the Internet?
Furthermore, these laws only restrict people who publish the mugshots “for the purpose of commerce”. Apparently, it is not a problem to embarrass people so long as you do not make a business out of it.
The reality is that the law will likely not change and this will be a problem for years to come. Everyone simply needs to make sure that they paid that ticket for going 42 in a 30 on time!
Stephen Vighi is an attorney and partner at Thurman Law firm. If you have a question about the law or need legal counsel, he can be reached at 636.797.2601.