Mug Shot Websites: Legal Extortion!

One of the most sacred principles in the American criminal justice system is the presumption that one is innocent until he or she is proven guilty. The State of North Carolina must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each essential element of the crime charged.  Just because the police make an allegation doesn’t mean it is true.

When it comes to mugshots the damage is lasting for those who are completely innocent or who have had a legal expungement.  Many mug shot websites exists for the sole purpose of legally extorting people charged with crimes.  They offer to remove one’s mugshot only if they are paid money to take down the photos.  So someone could be completely innocent or have a case that was dismissed (and then all public records erased through the legal expungement process) and still have their mugshot available for everyone to see on private websites.  For many of these websites their sole purpose is to extort money from those charged with a crime to avoid damage to their reputation.

In 2013 there was a bill in North Carolina that gained some traction.  It would have made mugshot extortion an unfair trade practice.  While there is a valid first amendment news purpose behind the release of mugshots for legitimate news sources there should not be an ability for websites to exist only to be paid to remove mugshots.  The text of the bill below.



SECTION 10.1. Chapter 75 of the General Statutes is amended by adding a new section to read:

"§ 75-43. Unfair use of criminal record information.

(a) The violation of any provision of this section shall be considered an unfair trade practice, as prohibited by G.S. 75-1.1.

(b) A person commits a violation under this section if the person does both of the following:

(1) Engages in publishing or otherwise disseminating, in print or over the Internet, photographs of an individual taken pursuant to G.S. 15A-502(a)(1) or G.S. 15A-502(a2) or authorized by G.S. 15A-502(b).

(2) Solicits or accepts the payment of a fee or other consideration to remove the individual's photograph."

SECTION 10.2. This Part becomes effective December 1, 2014, and applies to violations occurring on or after that date.

There is also some debate about whether mugshots are public records and whether police departments should release all mugshots.

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Wiley Nickel

Wiley Nickel lives and works in Cary, North Carolina. In 1998, he graduated from Tulane University with a major in Political Science and a minor in History. After college Wiley went to work for Al Gore and travelled with the Vice President as part of his national advance staff. Following the Gore campaign he earned his law degree from the Pepperdine University School of Law in 2005. While in law school Wiley worked as a law clerk in the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office where he gained valuable criminal trial experience before taking and passing the California bar exam. His first job out of law school was for the Merced County District Attorney’s Office where he worked as a Deputy District Attorney with a focus on prosecuting DWI offenders. Wiley later joined the Law Offices of Joseph Uremovic where he focused on civil litigation and family law. When the opportunity came to join the Obama campaign in 2008 Wiley jumped at the chance. He spent three years travelling with President Obama as a member of his national advance team. In 2011 Wiley left his work for the White House to return to the practice of law. Wiley devotes the majority of his practice to the areas of criminal law, family law, traffic tickets and DMV issues. The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel was started with the goal of providing the best representation possible for all of his clients. Experienced, Compassionate, Aggressive Criminal Defense While defense attorney Wiley Nickel works as the primary attorney for all of his cases, he does have an associate attorney, a team of investigators, forensic consultants, and support staff to call on to help achieve the best possible result in every case. He limits his case load so that he can focus on providing the best possible legal defense to all of his clients. Every case is a top priority and the goal is to have your case dismissed with a focus on being able to expunge your charges at the end of the process. When he is not working, Wiley is an avid family man, distance runner and golfer. He loves North Carolina college sports and is hoping this is the year for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Wiley is licensed to practice law in North Carolina and California.