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.