Mugshot Law Targets Pay to Remove Sites Only: news organizations unaffected

A bill signed into law at the end of June, requiring websites and other publications to remove mugshots upon request, will not impact traditional publishers. The bill, Chapter 2017-130, Florida Laws, takes effect on July 1, 2018 as Florida Statute Section 943.0586. It prohibits persons or entities engaged in publishing or otherwise disseminating in print or electronic media mug shot photographs of persons arrested from soliciting or accepting a fee for the removal of the mugshot. The law provides that persons whose mugshots have been published may make a written request for removal of the mugshot and requires the publisher to respond to requests that comply with the requirements of the statute by removing the mugshot within 10 days without charge. The law does not address how print publishers will comply with requests for removal. The law does not apply to publishers who do not solicit or accept payment to remove arrest booking photographs, carving out traditional news organizations from the statute’s reach.

The statute provides for civil injunctive relief and penalties ($1,000/day) if the mugshot is not removed within the time provided by the statute. Attorneys’ fees and court costs are also recoverable. In addition, the statute provides that a publisher’s refusal to remove the mugshot constitutes a deceptive and unfair trade practice under Chapter 501, Florida Statutes. Id. at § 1.(4).

A separate section of the bill, related to sealing of certain criminal history records, will not take effect.19

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