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Websites No Longer Allowed To Charge For Mugshot Removal In Florida

Daniel Oines
Credit Daniel Oines / Flickr

Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law Senate Bill 118, prohibiting websites that publish criminal mugshots from charging to remove the photos.

Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, said websites are charging high prices to take down mugshots even if the person pictured has had the conviction sealed, or expunged.

“What we did was pass the bill that if you legally had your record expunged you had to send a letter to the website company; they had so many days to comply,” he said. “If they didn’t comply it created a civil cause of action under the ‘Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act’ and that individual could follow a lawsuit.”

Those websites will now have 10 days to remove the mugshots after receiving a request for removal or the business could face a civil penalty of $1,000 per day for noncompliance.

Steube said this could especially affect the lives of those who were charged with a crime as a juvenile and then later on in life apply for a job.

“(If they) didn’t list that they had had a criminal record because the record had been expunged for whatever reason and then (the potential employer) does a Google search and it pops up with their mugshot because of these privately-run mugshot companies,” Steube said.

Jacksonville Public Defender Charlie Cofer said his clients could take advantage of the new law after his office has represented them, but he doesn’t think it’s possible to erase all traces of arrests from the internet.

“Somebody goes on and clicks share and it goes on Facebook, then — like the big field of dominos — it’s out there,” Cofer said.

The bill also contained a section that would have sealed the records of millions of people who were arrested, but not convicted. That portion did not become law, according to Scott.

“The bill specifies that such provision is only effective if Senate Bill 450, or similar legislation, is adopted in the same legislative session and becomes law,” said Scott said in a letter to Secretary of State Kenneth Detzner.

SB450 dealt with public records laws and did not pass committee. It was linked to SB118 which stated the record sealing section would be effective if SB450 also passed. 

“Well, there’s some disagreement legally on all of this, and we may just have to do a bill next year to clear it up,” Steube said.

This record sealing had drawn scrutiny from open government advocates including the First Amendment Foundation, which was urging Scott to veto the bill.

Photo used under Creative Commons

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at@lindskilbride.

Copyright 2020 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

Lindsey Kilbride joined WJCT News in 2015 after completing the radio documentary program at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine.