This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.
You’re young, free, and dumb. You go out with some friends. You’re having a good time, and on your walk home, you decide to do something not so smart—and you get caught by the cops.
Now, you’re arrested and spend your first night in jail. No big deal, right? You don’t need an experienced lawyer. There are no criminal charges filed. The judge knows you are a good apple and lets you off with a warning. No harm, no foul.
You move on with your life, never giving the incident a second thought, other than the fact you now have a great story to tell. But there’s more it than that.
According to the most recent available data, over 7 million arrests are made in the United States every year.
If you count yourself among this unlucky group, one of your first experiences during the booking phase would have been to have your mugshot taken.
While mugshot photos serve as important tools for law enforcement, they can end up causing significant problems in the internet age—problems that may end up unfairly affecting you for the rest of your life.
If police reports or a mugshot image are negatively impacting you, here’s a collection of useful facts and tips about this kind of trouble and what actions you can take to restore your sparkling online presence.
When your mugshot dominates your online reputation, it can influence your life in several inconvenient ways that are extremely difficult to overcome—even if the arrest was for a minor offense or one that you were later cleared of.
A lucrative mugshot publishing industry has sprung up to cater to the public’s interest in this type of content. In fact, many high-traffic websites feature the booking photos of celebrities and other people experiencing their 15 minutes of fame (or infamy).
These pictures of people at the lowest point of their lives create a negative image of them because the photos are often accompanied by entire arrest records and the individual’s full legal name.
There are also a shocking number of Facebook pages run by local police departments that routinely post mugshots, often with the names and ages of perpetrators and details of the arrest, as part of their social media strategy.
This kind of information posted online can affect how a potential employer views you or limit your future business opportunities.
The trend of “Googling” people’s names means mugshots are discovered by more people, more frequently
Unfortunately, some people have an affinity for reading about damaging content (as long as it’s not about them).
The trend can have serious repercussions if your search engine results are dominated by a mugshot.
The accessibility and popularity of websites that focus on publishing mugshots and arrest records online can also cause personal embarrassment and make it difficult for people to form personal connections with new acquaintances.
As such, having a damaging mugshot online can automatically give you a bad reputation, even if the charges were eventually dropped.
We touched on this a little earlier, but it’s important to expand on this point to give you a complete picture of a mugshot’s power to harm your career prospects.
According to a study by The Manifest, nearly half of employers use Google to research job applicants. So, if you have arrest reports or an arrest mugshot floating out there online, it’s only a matter of time before a potential employer finds it.
The unfortunate truth is that many employers will reject a job candidate based on negative search results and a poor online reputation, which does not bode well for those who struggle with a mugshot that commands the top position in search results.
A mugshot can create a problem where there really shouldn’t be one. For example, some states automatically seal the records of juveniles for most crimes, for the express purpose of preventing youthful mistakes from causing long-term damage to citizens’ everyday life.
But if the law enforcement agency places the mugshot online, then it can be copied and posted on the web, even when a background check doesn’t turn up any arrest.
To make matters worse, taking down your online mugshot can cost you a fortune—even if you don’t have a record.
Even though there have been numerous lawsuits filed in recent years to shut down websites that publish mugshots for profit, there are still several sites publishing this content (and refusing to take it down, even if you were acquitted, falsely accused, had your ID stolen, found not guilty, or had your record was expunged). This, of course, makes life harder for those who have been arrested.
This unfortunate reality is compounded by the fact that your legal rights to keep your mugshot private are extremely limited, which can be infuriating since it can negatively affect your personal and professional life.
Did you know that?
In addition, your arrest records may also be considered part of the public domain; legally, your mugshot could be considered part of this record.
There is a lack of clarity about whether it is legal for sites to charge a fee for mugshot removal. Some states do, yet others don’t. Unfortunately, if your mugshot has been posted to one of these sites, it is likely posted to other leading mugshot groups as well.
This often creates a need to undergo the time-consuming and expensive process of contacting and paying each of these sites individually to remove the photo. Even then, many websites may flatly refuse to remove it after you’ve already taken the time to make your request.
The fine print of mugshot removal for pay tends to show what you’re actually buying. Typically, you’re paying someone to send a request to have your mugshot removed rather than paying for the removal of the photo itself.
Half of these requests are made by employees of the mugshot sites themselves, and the payment does not even guarantee that your mugshot will be taken down.
Further, your mugshot is likely only removed from the single site you are paying for, leaving you vulnerable to other predatory and often affiliated mugshot sites. It’s a bad situation to be in.
The process of paying to have your mugshot removed from each site then starts all over again (and round and round you go).
In the states of Illinois, Oregon, Colorado, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, for example, you may be protected from having to pay for the removal of your mugshot or law enforcement may be prohibited from releasing mug shots in the first place, as each of these states has its own, uniquely worded local law against these practices.
While there are many individual states attempting to protect people from predatory websites looking to extort people with mugshots, the situation is pervasive on the internet and thus very difficult to control, often leaving victims with no real protection from the law and little recourse.
As unforgiving as the internet can be about broadcasting a person’s past mistakes to the world, it also offers a way for those who are affected by this form of negative content online to regain some control over the situation.
If your mugshot is dominating your search results on the internet, in many cases your best course of action will be to engage in mugshot suppression tactics.
If the site maintains a “courtesy removal service” and you can prove that you’ve taken steps to change your life since your arrest, the moderators may remove the photo for you free of charge.
In some cases, if you prove that you were never charged with a crime or were ultimately exonerated of the charges, you may find that a website is willing to remove your photo.
While this kind of communication can be a useful tool, it’s important to remember that you will undoubtedly encounter some websites that show no empathy and will remain unwilling to help you.
In many instances, the best way to remove your mugshot online is to bury it.
Studies have shown again and again that the vast majority of search queries tend to result in users clicking the top handful of links.
Past the third or fourth link, clicking drops significantly. And if a link is driven to the second page of results, it might as well not even exist; less than 1 percent of those searching for results bother with the second page.
Understand how a reputation management firm helps you control the appearance of your mug shot in search results
To drive mugshot websites off your search results, a reputation management company devises well-written, relevant content around your name.
Search engines index content based, among other factors, on how “relevant” it is to the terms; for example, if you have a public blog, that site should be among your top results.
If you’re curious about how this works you can read our Definitive guide to online reputation management. Over time, you can put an end to mugshot sites in your results.
Why pay to take down your online mugshot over and over again when you can just bury it with content that will naturally improve your reputation on the internet?
Call one of our experts today for a free consultation regarding the reputation management options that are best suited to your situation.
But, before you do, we have a gift for you. We want to give you a free reputation report card.
This report will tell you instantly how others view you online. It’ll also give you a letter grade on how well your online reputation is doing. Once you have this information, you will be better prepared to help our experts guide you towards the services you might need.