Pinellas Sheriff's Office to take mug shots off its website; says other websites extorting the public by reposting them online

6:46 PM, Jan 9, 2014   |    comments
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If you're arrested in Florida, there's a very good chance your booking photo may find its way online.

It varies from county to county, but mug shots are considered public record, and in many jurisdictions, they are posted online along with arrest information. Other websites can then take that information and repost them.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is one of the many Florida law enforcement agencies that posted booking photos online -- albeit with a large watermark. But now Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says their site has been redesigned, and mug shots will no longer be featured.

The reason: many other websites that reposted the pictures would refuse to take them down unless they were paid hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars.

"I saw that citizens were being charged anywhere from $399 to $1,700 to remove their booking photos from just that one site," Gualtieri said as an example. "I decided that it is more than a rip-off... it is extortion."

The Sheriff went on to say in a statement that "A lot of these people have committed relatively minor crimes, or made a bad decision. The reposting of their booking photo isn't illegal, but charging a fee to remove it is unconscionable, verging on blackmail and clearly taking advantage of someone's circumstances. So we are doing our part to take away their ammunition."

The changes to the Pinellas Sheriff's "Who's in Jail" page will go live on Monday, January 13. People's arrest pages will still be posted, but no mug shot will be included in the report.

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