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Bill would ban charging fee for removing mug shots

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POSTED April 28, 2014 7:31 p.m.

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California would prohibit businesses from charging a fee to take mug shots off their websites under a bill that passed out of the state Senate on Monday.

Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said websites that extract and compile criminal record information from police and sheriff’s departments have proliferated in recent years. These sites charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars to have people’s booking photos removed whether or not a person was actually charged or convicted, he said.

“This is extortion, plain and simple,” Hill said.

SB1027 passed the Senate on a 34-0 vote. It now moves to the Assembly.

Hill quoted figures from the state attorney general’s office saying more than 930,000 Californians were arrested in 2011. Yet more than half of them were never convicted or had the charges dropped.

It’s likely all those people have their mug shots online, Hill said.

According to Hill’s office, such commercial websites have turned a public service into a profit by charging substantial fees to have information removed. There have been instances where people have lost work because their booking photo for suspicion of driving under the influence was posted online even though the charge was ultimately dropped.

Five other states including Georgia, Illinois, Oregon, Texas, and Utah already have banned fees for removing mug shots. An additional 14 states are now considering similar legislation.

California’s bill is being backed by some law enforcement groups such as the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs.

In addition to the ban, the bill imposes a fine of up to $1,000 or the cost of damages, whichever is greater.

There’s no known opposition so far.

 

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