News Release - Office of Sen. Jerry Hill - www.senate.ca.gov/hill
Contact: Aurelio Rojas, communications director, 916-747-3199 cell
Jerry Hill Introduces Legislation Barring ‘Extortion’ Websites From Demanding Payment to Remove Arrest Mug Shots
Bill Would End Spread of Sites That Charge Thousands to Remove Booking Photos That Ruin Reputations Even When Charges are Dropped
SACRAMENTO – State Senator Jerry Hill, prompted by the proliferation of websites that charge hundreds of dollars and in some cases thousands to have police mug shots removed from their sites, today introduced legislation that would make it illegal to solicit payment to do so.
Arrest records and booking photos would still be available to the media and interested individuals under the California Public Records Act.
Senate Bill 1027 merely seeks to end the for-profit dissemination of arrest information by fly-by-night enterprises that often sully reputations and hinder employment opportunities, regardless of whether charges are dropped.
“This practice amounts to extortion,” said Hill, D-San Mateo. “We’re all accountable for our behavior, but that doesn’t mean someone should make money by spreading your booking photo around the world – especially if you were never convicted of a crime.”
Bob DeBrino, a film producer who has worked with such luminaries as director Sidney Lumet and actors Gary Busey, Steve Baldwin and Vin Diesel, said his business deals have collapsed since his DUI booking photo was posted on the internet.
The former New York City police officer was arrested by Glendale police in January 2013 on suspicion of driving under the influence of methadone and the prescription drug Adderall. The medication was prescribed by doctors in preparation for surgery. The DUI charges were dropped after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office rejected the case.
But DeBrino’s unflattering mug shot remains plastered on websites that he said are demanding he pay them thousands of dollars to take it down.
“This has been a damn nightmare,” said DeBrino, who received dozens of citations for bravery before retiring early from the NYPD due to injuries sustained in the line of duty, including being shot while foiling a bank robbery. “It’s about time to stand up to these con men who are ruining lives.”
Hill’s legislation would amend the California Civil Code to prohibit websites from charging a fee to remove a mug shot. Specifically, the bill would:
Ø Make it unlawful to solicit or accept payment to remove, correct or modify mug shots online.
Ø Each violation would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000.
Five states (Georgia, Illinois, Oregon, Texas and Utah) have passed laws with bipartisan support restricting the practice of charging a fee to remove a mug shot and more than 14 other states have introduced similar legislation this year.