How to remove mugshots from the internet
Whenever there’s a celebrity scandal involving a police arrest, people flock to check out pictures from the incident, including mugshot images. It’s all fun and games until you‘re the one with a mugshot online. Then things can become dicey. Especially given that, over the last few years, several websites have popped up to profit from criminal records.
There are few things you can do to remove your mugshot from the internet:
- Contact the website owner
- Use Google’s own image removal process
- Expunge your criminal record
- Use a Mugshot removal service
- Bury the mugshot in other search results
Let’s look at each solution in detail.
1) Contact the website owner
The first step you’ll want to take when trying to remove your mugshot from the internet is to contact the site owner directly. Check their webpage for contact information and reach out to them. Explain your situation and politely ask that they erase any mugshots they have of you.
Some mugshot websites list situations in which they will remove your mugshot free of charge. For example, if the charges were dismissed. In such a case, you will likely be required to provide adequate proof and documentation. However, as we’ve already mentioned, many mugshot websites will request a fee for the service.
Although this is the most effective way to make a mugshot go away, it’s far from ideal and can be only temporary. Yes, once it is removed from the website, it will automatically disappear from Google Search results. However, as the mugshot websites go through criminal records in search of these photos, there is a chance that your picture will pop-up again, only on a different website.
2) Use Google’s own image removal process
As Google is the most popular search engine in the world, there’s a good chance that if someone’s going to come across your mugshot, it’ll be there. So if step one fails, reach out to Google. They have a special webpage where you can submit your image removal request from Google search results.
Unfortunately, this method doesn’t work too often, as Google has pretty strict rules about image removal. However, if there is some sort of sensitive data visible in the photo, there is a chance you will get your mugshot removed from the Google Search results. Just keep in mind that the picture will still exist on the website where it was first published.
3) Expunge your criminal record
In some cases, you can file a petition to expunge or seal your record. However, the crime you committed or were charged with must fall within the bounds of expungement law (typically, this includes minor offenses), and a certain amount of time has to have passed.
Even though chances are slim with this one, if you go through the process successfully, you can then demand the website remove the mugshot, as it stops being part of the public record. Case closed.
4) Use a Mugshot removal service
Once mugshot sites appeared on the scene, it was only a matter of time before the niche grew and mugshot removal websites appeared. These companies collect an oftentimes hefty fee in exchange for removing your mugshot. Such services can be effective in having mugshots removed from particular sites, but they don’t have agreements or relationships in place with all mugshot sites and many will simply refuse their requests. And as your mugshot remains a matter of public record, it may reappear on other websites soon after.
5) Burying the mugshot in other search results
Some companies advertise a slightly different solution: manipulating search engine results such that your mugshot image gets buried under other, more positive results. This way, they aren’t technically removing the mugshots from Google, but they are making them less likely to appear. The downsides are that your mugshots still might appear on the first page of search results for your name, and will definitely appear if someone searches your name plus the word “mugshot.”
How do mugshot photos end up online?
The thing is that mugshots are a part of online arrest records, which, in most states, are considered public information. That’s why anyone can access them and later publish them on the internet. They will appear in Google Search results and potentially harm your online reputation. Although some states have passed mugshot removal laws, there’s no federal regulation. Worse, there are those who decided this could be a lucrative business opportunity.
Some people don’t care how they make money and whether they harm others as long as the money keeps rolling in. It was only a matter of time before mugshot websites appeared and became full-scale businesses. These web pages are basically online databases that gather arrest records and mugshot photos. Then, when you request to get them removed, they require you to pay a fee for said “service.” Business models like this exploit people’s fear of gaining a bad reputation.
Unsurprisingly, there have been numerous scandals surrounding these types of websites. A few years ago, the owners of mugshots.com were charged with extortion, money laundering, and identity theft. It turned out they had been charging $399 to remove mugshots, effectively taking advantage of thousands of people and netting over $2.4 million.
Why it’s dangerous to have a mugshot posted online
A mugshot, to many people, suggests an arrest record and that the person has committed a criminal act. It won’t matter to most people if the accused was found not guilty or the criminal charges were dropped. Having your mugshot posted online creates a negative image and may cause issues in the future.
There are many ways that the presence of a mugshot online can have a negative impact on your life. Apart from potential relationship damage, it can create problems in your workplace and affect your career. If you have your own company, you may start losing clients.
As you’ve learned by now, getting your mugshot removed from the internet can be an uphill battle. Whether you try to accomplish it on your own or by seeking the help of mugshot removal services, the results can be unsatisfactory. Then, even if you are successful, unless you get your criminal record expunged, there will always remain the chance your photo will once again pop-up on some website. Some people seek the help of an experienced lawyer, but this comes with a costly price tag.
To keep your identity safe, be mindful of your digital footprint and, overall, be careful what you agree to on the internet. If you ever find your criminal arrest records online, check if your photo hasn’t been posted on a mugshot website. And if it has, do everything you can to get your mugshots removed. Alternatively, you can also take advantage of the data removal service Incogni. By sending automatic opt-out requests on your behalf, you won’t have to lift a finger. In the meantime, the service will help remove your data from the internet. What else do you need to disappear completely from the internet? Check out this post.