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Mugshot Websites Causing Concern

11:22 PM, Oct 22, 2012   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Richland County's jail has stopped posting inmate photos as public record after county leaders say national mugshot websites are using them to charge you a fee to remove them regardless if you are innocent or not.

We all know when you are arrested, you go to jail, you are fingerprinted, and you have a mugshot taken. Then that photo is placed on a jail's website.

"I would like to see these websites taken down. This is the closest thing to extortion that I've ever experienced."

He doesn't want his identity revealed but this man says he was arrested in Lexington County on a misdemeanor charge. He proclaims his innocence but tells News19 he'll have to pay hundreds of dollars to get his mugshot taken down offline.

"Until I am proven guilty, I don't see why I should be viewed in the public's eyes as otherwise. But if I am found guilty, put me on a billboard," he said.

Seth Rose, Richland County Councilman and defense attorney, calls it legal extortion and a national epidemic. His law offices have been defending clients with similar issues with other websites.

"They are not just doing this in our county, but in every county across the state, across the country," said Rose. "This is not against the law. I just think there are ethical concerns. I think this should be against the law. I think this is something, that because this is a nation problem, many people don't know about this."

Which is why Rose approached administrators with Richland County's Jail asking that the photos be taken down so national website cannot access them.

"We definitely don't want these sites to have access," Richland County Spokesperson Stephany Snowden says they are looking for long term solutions to posting inmate photos, making sure they are not keeping important information from the public and the media.

"When people are arrested, they are innocent until proven guilty and it seems these unscrupulous sites are making them guilty," said Snowden.

Not everyone agrees.

"I would like to see the pictures go back," Joyce Pickett works for ABC bonding a bail bondsman company, who says the public photos help identify who they're getting out and who they're dealing with.

"We have a lot of people who don't appear in court and it's our job to make sure they do, so by having those pictures, it gives us a starting point," said Pickett.

It's a photo controversy that has those in the middle of it wanting the mugshot websites exposed. Just ask anyone who's photo can be found online through a simple search.

"These website have just defamed my character and really shown me in a negative light."

The process for media members to gain access to inmate photos in Richland County has changed. The county says we here at News19 will have to email the jail directly to receive photos. Richland County has assured us that official media members will not be denied access to mugshots.

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