Calif. Senate seeks to outlaw fees by websites for removing mugshots

Senate sends Brown bill that would make it illegal to charge Californians for removing mugshots from websites

Website operators would be prohibited from charging Californians a fee to take down booking photos posted on the sites under a bill given final legislative approval Monday by the state Senate.

The measure, which goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration, is in response to a proliferation of websites that post mugshots of people arrested on suspicion of committing crimes even if they are never charged or are found not guilty. The websites contact the people in the mugshots and offer to remove them from the websites for a fee of hundreds or thousands of dollars, according to Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), who wrote the bill.

“We’re all accountable for our behavior, but that doesn’t mean someone should make money by spreading your booking photo on the Web – especially if you were never convicted of a crime,” Hill said in a statement.

The senator noted that in 2011, more than 932,500 Californians were arrested, however 545,737 were never convicted or had their charges dropped. 

The state Senate also approved a measure Monday that would extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting public bribery cases from three years after the occurrence of a bribe to three years after the bribe is discovered. State Sen. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) introduced SB 950 with support from the California District Attorneys Assn. in response to the San Bernardino County Colonies case, where the statute of limitations affected some charges.

“Bribing a public official is a violation of public trust and a serious crime that should be heard in court regardless of how long ago the offense occurred,” Torres said. 

Also, Monday, the state Assembly approved $1.4 million to settle claims by three men that they were wrongly convicted and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.

The largest settlement, $683,300, goes to Francisco Carillo, who served 19 years in prison for a gang murder in Los Angeles County, but the district attorney’s office approved his release in 2011 after several witnesses recanted their testimony.

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