If you’ve been arrested in Teton County, Wyoming, there is a good chance your mugshot is online.
When you’re booked into jail, the detention officers take a booking photo of you. In Teton County, the local officials made the choice to put that arrest photo online. The process is so efficient, that if you’re booked on Friday night, the arrest photo is up within a few hours.
Local effects of the arrest photo
Among locals, people joke about the booking photos. I know people who check the inmate list when a co-worker doesn’t show up for work. While it’s embarrassing, my sense is that people don’t take it too seriously, since they know anyone can make a mistake. The inmate list is also a good way for attorneys to judge how busy the police were last night. I confess that I checked the inmate list after the free Lynyrd Skynyrd concert last summer (Yes, the police were busy that night).
National websites capitalize on your booking photo
Unfortunately, shame sells. Websites like mugshots.com (I won’t link to these jerks), scrape law enforcement websites for booking photos. In other words, your Teton County DUI photo, gets reposted on a website based in Nevada, or perhaps overseas. Anytime someone searches your name (like a potential employer), they can find your booking photo on the mugshot website. If you want them to take the photo down, you need to be prepared to pay up. These websites charge a “removal fee.”
The New York times did a fascinating article on the business. Fox News covered debated whether this was free speech or extortion here.
If you’re in this situation, I strongly suggest that you do not pay the “removal fee.” According to the New York Times, there are more than 80 of these websites. If you pay to take your mugshot down on one site, what’s to stop the other websites from posting the booking photo and charging you to take it down?
Are there any laws against mugshot websites?
The answer is sort of. The Wyoming Legislature passed a bill that modified the Wyoming Consumer Protection Act. Under Wyoming Statute 40-12-601, any website that puts up an arrest photo of you is required to take the photo down within 30 days of receiving your request. However, and this is a big catch, you must document that you were not convicted of the crime. You must show that either you were found not guilty, or put on probation without the entry of the conviction. So assuming you qualify, and assuming you properly make the request, you can can bring a claim against the website. If the website fails to take down the photo, it’s a violation of the Wyoming Consumer Protection Act, which entitles you to attorney’s fees and compensation. To my knowledge, no one has brought one of these lawsuits. If you know someone who has brought a lawsuit under the act, I’m curious to chat with them. Please get in touch.