A few years ago we told you about some lawsuits against Mugshots.com and other websites which post the mug shots of those charged with crimes. While the particular lawsuit that we covered, Kaplan and Lashway v. Mugshots, et al, was settled, others were not, and now a Federal judge has ruled that the plaintiffs in a case out of Illinois and Florida against Mugshots.com and UnpublishArrest.com have made a strong enough case for it to move forward, despite the defendants’ motion to dismiss the entire lawsuit for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (known to legal folks as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion).
As most of us know, if only from the movies and television, if not from personal experience, when you are arrested, you may have a mugshot taken. And, these mugshots end up in the public record. From there, it turns out, mugshots are ending up all over the Internet and, most relevently, on several websites whose sole purpose is to curate mugshots – and to charge the subjects of those mugshots if they want them removed. This can cause all sorts of problems for people who have ended up on the wrong side of the mugshot camera, as their mugshots are on the Internet even if they have since been found innocent or had the charges dismissed! In this age of routine Internet searches, imagine having that hanging over your head when applying for a job. Now a class-action lawsuit has been filed by attorney Scott Ciolek, on behalf of two named plaintiffs (Phillip Kaplan and Debra Lashaway), and suing five such mugshot sites – bustedmugshots.com, findmugshots.com, mugshotsonline.com, mugremove.com and justmugshots.com – alleging that such mugshot web sites infringe on the individuals’ “right of publicity”, a right which is intended to protect individuals from unpermitted use of one’s personality. (Public figures are often found to be exempt from this protection, such as in the now infamous case with Jerry Falwell.)
You’ve heard of the neighborhood crime watch? That’s where the citizens of a neighborhood keep their eyes open for crimes in progress and report them to the police. Well, the police department in the town of Evesham, New Jersey, has turned this idea on its head. They are instead informing the local citizenry of people who have been accused of crimes. They are doing it by posting names and mugshots and other photos of suspects on Facebook! And these aren’t just suspects who have been booked – they are even posting pictures taken before a suspect has even been arrested (let alone charged).