DENVER (AP) – Commercial websites that make money by posting people’s mug shots, and then charging for their removal, would have to take down the pictures down for free if the person was innocent under a proposal that Colorado lawmakers advanced Tuesday.
“This is a modest proposal to deal with a real issue where innocent people are harmed, because people make assumptions when you have a mug shot,” said Boulder Democratic Rep. K.C. Becker, the sponsor of the bill. Her proposal passed a House committee on a 9-2 vote. The full House will now debate it.
Becker told lawmakers that people who are arrested, but never charged or are acquitted, are still “affected by the distortion and the stigma that having a mug shot creates.” She said they have trouble getting jobs or renting an apartment as a result of having booking photos online. People pay hundreds of dollars to get mug shots removed from websites, she said.
Georgia and Utah are among states that have passed laws addressing the issue of websites profiting from people’s booking photos, but there have been First Amendment concerns.
Denise Maes, the public policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado, said she liked the premise of Becker’s proposal.
“Unfortunately, I think it attempts to get to a positive result by violating the First Amendment,” Maes said.
Becker’s proposal would require websites to take down booking photos at a person’s request without a fee if the person was never convicted of the crime for which he or she was arrested. Becker’s bill would not impose criminal penalties, but it would allow people to sue if their picture is not removed.
In the U.S., there are about 80 websites that post people’s mug shots for profit, according to information provided by Becker’s staff.
Earlier this month, two websites settled a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Toledo and agreed to stop charging people to take down their mug shots.
“It affects many innocent people, people who were never convicted of a crime,” Becker said.
LINK: House Bill 47
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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