Bill would ban mugshot websites from charging for removal




Photo by Ervins Strauhmanis | Flickr/CC BY 2.0

A state lawmaker wants to make it illegal for companies to make people pay money to have their mugshots and other criminal justice records removed from websites, though it’s unclear how such a law would be enforced against people outside of Arizona.

House Bill 2191, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, states that mugshot website operators cannot post information about people’s criminal justice records online the purpose of soliciting business or making money, including charging fees to have information removed from websites. Violators would face fines of $100 to $500 per day, depending on how long they left the information online.

Payne’s bill states that any mugshot website operator that publishes an individual’s criminal justice record online for commercial purposes on a publicly accessible website is considered to be doing business in Arizona. But enforcement may not be that simple, given that websites can be hosted outside of the state or even in different countries, which would make it difficult to collect fines or force operators to remove offending information.

In 2018, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra charged the operators of four mugshot websites with extortion, money laundering and identity theft for charging people to remove criminal records from their sites. Authorities in Connecticut, Florida and Pennsylvania extradited the four defendants to face criminal charges in California.

HB 2191 would not impose criminal charges on website operators accused of violating the law.

The House Committee on Public Safety will hear HB 2191 on Wednesday. Payne could not be reached for comment.

Jeremy Duda
Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”

3 COMMENTS

  1. It’s a great step in the right direction for Arizona due to how many leaked records there are somewhere in the ballpark of 800 thousand. 530 thousand of these are in Maricopa county alone.

    However viewing the 18 states with prohibition laws already in existence, the ones with simply making it illegal to charge have proven ineffective because the publishers simply monetize with affiliate advertisers. South Carolina’s S.C. Code Section 17-1-60 makes for a much more effective solution IMHO. https://www.ussupportllc.win/free-mugshot-removal-guide/

    • HB2191 not only prohibits mugshot website operators from charging to remove the mugshots but also prohibits the use of mugshots and other criminal record information, by mugshot website operators, for commercial purposes (including monetizing with affiliate advertisers). Furthermore, the bill prescribes a cause of action and remedy for individuals whom are victims of mugshot website operators. — Nevertheless, yes, a great step in the right direction indeed.

  2. Section E denotes exemptions. Which includes disseminating news to the public.

    E. This article does not apply to any act performed for the purpose of disseminating news to the public, including the gathering, publishing or broadcasting information to the public for a news-related purpose, or to any act performed by a publisher, owner, agent, employee or retailer of a newspaper, radio station, radio network, television station, television broadcast network, cable television network or other online news outlet associated with any news organization in connection with the dissemination of news to the public, including the gathering, publishing or broadcasting information to the public for a news-related purpose.

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