On May 6, 2013, a new law went on the books in Georgia, aimed at helping people who have been targeted by one or more mugshot websites. The law, HB 150, was introduced by Representative Roger Bruce, a Democrat from Atlanta, and it's been covered extensively in the news media throughout the state.
Unfortunately, much of that coverage has been erroneous, and it could give some people the mistaken impression that they're safe from mugshot trouble when they are really not protected by any part of this very complicated law.
The legislation first came to our attention at the beginning of the year, when Representative Bruce gave a series of interviews about the mugshot industry in Georgia. Essentially, he suggested that charging for mugshot removal was akin to "extortion," and he was writing the bill in order to help his constituents who have been targeted by sites like this. His work, as he saw it, would ban sites from charging fees to have photos removed. As an example of a victim, many reporters focused on Georgia resident Sophia Andrade, who was arrested on a domestic violence charge that was later thrown out of court.
As a result of her inclusion on mugshot websites, this person had difficulties finding employment, and she found it unconscionable that she'd have to pay to remove the photos when she didn't do anything wrong. Some reporters went so far as to interview other victims of mugshot websites who were convicted of their crimes, and who still wanted to see their mugshots removed. The implication was that the law might protect them as well. To be fair, some of these articles were written before the final legislation was drafted, so it's possible that the reporters would write very different stories now. However, these articles are still available online, and they could leave some people with misconceptions about how the new law works and what it can and cannot do.
At this point, the law only protects people who are arrested within the state of Georgia. The law can't help anyone who lives within the state and who has been arrested in another state. Interestingly, the woman who was so often interviewed on this topic, Sophia Andrade, was arrested in Florida, so this law doesn't help her at all. Similarly, the law only moves forward, not back, so people who have already been arrested in Georgia and who already show up on mugshot websites aren't protected. Only future cases could be handled in this way.
It's also important to note that the legislation only pertains to mugshot websites that don't include any sort of news or commentary. It's a strange little sentence, and it could be interpreted in a variety of ways, but it seems as though this language was inserted in order to allow news agencies to continue to use mugshots, if they'd like to do so. Unfortunately, many news companies in Georgia like to publish mugshots in their own little damaging collections. For example, 11Alive publishes mugshots on a regular basis, under the heading "See 'em to Believe 'em." This sort of practice wouldn't be banned under the legislation.
FetchYourNews.com also publishes arrest records each and every Tuesday for Gilmer County, and this might also be considered protected speech under the law. These news sites don't charge fees in order to remove mugshots, but some of these sites refuse to remove mugshots at all, as they believe the images are "news" and unpublishing them is akin to changing history. The reputation damage they can do could be immense. Websites like Georgia.arrests.org have removed their optional removal option for people, prior to the law this website had an option for people to pay for expedited removal, the website has since removed the option. It's also important to note that the legislation doesn't cover people who have been convicted of their crimes.
The law is designed only for people who have been acquitted of their crimes. Only these people could ask the sites for a free mugshot removal. Anyone who is convicted, no matter how small the charge might be, isn't protected by this law. As a result, some of the people interviewed in the original stories on this topic aren't protected by this law at all. If they'd like to see their mugshots removed, they'll still have to pay. The law seems to be a step in the right direction, as it allows people who haven't been convicted to clear their names without paying a high fee for that relief.
However, the law doesn't protect the vast number of people who are arrested in Georgia. As a result, if you've been arrested, you will likely need the help of an expert in order to clear your name. We can help. We can remove mugshots from all major mugshot websites in minutes, and we can work with newspapers and other media outlets to remove any remaining coverage about your arrest.
We can also create a firewall of good content about you, so you won't be vulnerable to a future reputation attack.