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California

CA: Posting mugshots on internet draws criminal charges from California attorney general

[sacbee.com 5/16/18]

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Thursday filed extortion and money laundering charges against the owners of a website that publishes mugshot photos and charges a fee to remove them.

His office is targeting Mugshots.com, which pulls photos and identifying information about criminal suspects from law enforcement departments around the country. The site charges a “de-publishing fee” to remove someone from its archives, according to Becerra’s office.

Becerra said it has frustrated people who were accused of crimes they did not commit.

“This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation,” Becerra said. “Those who can’t afford to pay into this scheme to have their information removed pay the price when they look for a job, housing, or try to build relationships with others. This is exploitation, plain and simple.”

Read more

Related links:

Use copyright law to battle mugshot extortion [abajournal.com 3/27/18]

 

Join the discussion

  1. Gralphr

    “Those who can’t afford to pay into this scheme to have their information removed pay the price when they look for a job, housing, or try to build relationships with others. This is exploitation, plain and simple.”

    How is this any different from people in the registry? After all, some states make you pay a “fee” just for the privilege of being on the registry. Why isn’t that exploitation or a shakedown?

    • CR

      “How is this any different from people in the registry? After all, some states make you pay a “fee” just for the privilege of being on the registry. Why isn’t that exploitation or a shakedown?”

      That is exactly what it is. The state can do it because of its monopoly on the use of force. It won’t permit any competition.

    • David Kennerly, The Government-Driven Life

      It’s a good deal worse than exploitation, it’s “extortion.” Also known as “blackmail.” This is as clear a case of blackmail as there can be.

    • David

      Well, we really don’t have that option of paying to have our names removed from the registry, do we?

      • CR

        Someone should suggest that to the politicians. I bet a lot of registrants would pay to get off the registry. It could be a big moneymaker for the state.

    • Facts should matter

      Megan’s Law IS the highest form of coercion, blackmail and extortion.

      • New Person

        Megan’s law is “involuntary servitude”.

        Megan’s law states it is your “duty to register”. Duty is service to the state you register within.

        According to the language documented in Kelly v Municipal in 1958 in California, the registry is “compulsory police reporting”. This compulsory police reporting was considered criminal or quasi-criminal in character. Thus allowed those with 1203.4 expungement in California were able to get off the registry as 1203.4 released all penalties and disabilities.

        But in 2014, a case refuted this part of Kelly v Municipal by stating the registry isn’t punishment.

        If the registry isn’t punishment, then it cannot be applied to a free citizen.

        “Involuntary servitude is prohibited unless to punish a crime.” This is a statute in the US and California Constitutions.

        The registry isn’t punishment, but it is compulsory police reporting with the threat of law if you do not adhere to the compulsory police reporting. The registry is only born out of conviction. The only legal form of compulsory service is to punish a crime.

        Every person on the registry that is no longer under custody is being coerced by law to continue to serve the state by compulsory police reporting.

        If the registry isn’t punishment, then coercing any free person violates the state and federal constitutions. And the fact that a few states have only one term for their registry, being a lifetime term, should make the registry suspect of its scheme.

        Basic four terms of involuntary servitude:
        1) contract
        2) term
        3) compensation
        4) domineered

        The fact the registry is born out of conviction negates the contract. The term, for a few states, is a lifetime term, which is illogical to any business to offer or be held to a lifetime term contract. There exists no compensation for this compulsory police reporting. The registry scheme is upheld by coercion of law.

        Either I’m a free person being forced to do something for the state under penalty of law or involuntary servitude law doesn’t exist. Remember, the registry is born out of conviction and is not deemed punishment. The laws cannot have it both ways where you can impose compulsory service to the state upon a free person.

        • CR

          I like how you are continuing to develop your involuntary servitude argument. It is starting to make more sense to me. Thanks.

        • New Person

          @ CR,

          Thanks!

          I just know that the judges need to have perspective of the layman. Under California Constitution it states this:
          “Slavery is prohibited. Involuntary servitude is prohibited except to punish crime.”

          This means involuntary servitude need not be similar to slave-like conditions. Slavery is a separate sentence.

          Compulsory police reporting is required as a form for probation or parole, which is part of the punishment for your conviction, which is legal and you can be punished even more if you violate those terms. Once your punishment has been paid by meeting all the conditions, then you are a free person once again. I don’t understand this continued compulsory police reporting upheld under penalty of law which is not deemed punishment? Does any other free person need to do compulsory police reporting about their privacy annually or every time they move, purchase a vehicle, get a job, go to school, or volunteer? They do not. So why must I if it’s not punishment for my conviction and I’m no longer under custody to the state. The registry tells me that I am still in custody of the state.

          Either I’m a free person who has paid my debt to society or I’m not free and am still paying my debt to society. It can’t be both because it’s in law that it cannot be both.

          You can’t be a free person and still continue to pay your debt to society under penalty of law. No one wants to believe involuntary servitude can exist in today’s era. But why?

          All men are created equal, but women and african-americans didn’t get an equal vote till much later in history after the US Constitution was made. Why can’t involuntary servitude protections be upheld for those convicted of a sex offense? Are we not equal men? I thought my rights were restored once I paid my debt to society?

      • j

        And is also the prime example of cyber bullying. All of the aspects constitute ex post facto punishment in many cases in addition to cruel and unusual punishment.

  2. Anon

    Well maybe this is the start of something good?

  3. AW

    What about sites like homefacts.com? Doesn’t the (CA at least) Megan’s law website prohibit the re-posting of such information to begin with? Why doesn’t the state of CA take their own laws seriously? If it is a crime for me to view the Megan’s law website, how are they not endangering me by putting the same information on a space where I can easily view this supposedly illegal (for me) information?

    • CR

      What exactly does the CA law say regarding registrant access to the state registry web site?

      It seems like a pointless law, especially if the information is available from other sources. Anyway, if the information on the registry web site is public, how can they forbid a registrant, who is necessarily a member of the public, from accessing it?

      I’m not aware of any other state that prohibits registrants from visiting the state’s registry.

      • David Kennerly, The Government-Driven Life

        All good questions. I consider accessing California’s ML Registry to be the minimal civil disobedience I can commit and do so, freely.

      • Sunny

        I doubt it’s ever enforced, but the Megan’s Law disclaimer and statute are below. I actually was speaking on the phone to the California DOJ Megan’s Law unit earlier this year and talking to their secretary Anna about my listing on the registry and she said, “You shouldn’t be on there.” There were no repercussions. It’s just one of those “feel good” laws that has no substance.

        I’m unsure of the original intent of that section, perhaps to prevent us from communicating with one another and forming a unified civil rights movement. It’s not like the DOJ has an archive of all registrants’ IP addresses and checks those against the list of website visitors. I check the registry all the time, as I’m sure thousands of registrants do. I’ve never heard of anyone being prosecuted for it.

        If you’re really worried, just ask a friend or family member to run the search for you and print it out or send you a PDF – the statute is very limited in scope, penalizing only a registrant “who accesses the websites search functionality” / “who enters an Internet Web site.” Or use the national registry website – nsopw.gov – which contains permalinks to everyone’s California registration page. Or just use one of the third party websites which attempt to extort money from us (by copying California’s registry and making it available to everyone, aren’t these websites an accessory to the crime of assisting registrants viewing the registry? Must be one of those sex offender “loopholes” they’re always trying to close).

        WEBSITE DISCLAIMER
        “Any person who is required to register pursuant to Penal Code section 290 who accesses the websites search functionality is punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000, imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both the fine and imprisonment. (Penal Code § 290.46, subd. (k).)”

        PENAL CODE 290.46(k) STATUTE
        “(k) Any person who is required to register pursuant to Section 290 who enters an Internet Web site established pursuant to this section shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

        • CR

          Thanks for the text of the statute. Stopping registrants from organizing is at least a plausible rationale, albeit an idiotic one. Given the general level of stupidity among legislators, it could be something even dumber.

          I’m not personally worried about it, as I’m not a California registrant. I was just curious. More like mystified. Your suggestions for getting around it for anyone on the CA registry who is the least bit concerned are all good. I would add that accessing from a VPN or Tor would also give someone a measure of anonymity.

        • AW

          I’m less concerned about being able to access the site, and more about the hypocrisy of having said statute apply to one website, when the information is available in its entirety on homefacts.com. There is also this disclaimer on the website: “Legal and Illegal Uses. The information on this website is made available solely to protect the public. Anyone who uses this information to commit a crime or to harass an offender or his or her family is subject to criminal prosecution and civil liability.”

          I would consider the placing of registrant information on a for-profit website to be harassment.

        • CR

          @AW, the information being re-posted is all public information and HF is not trying to extort money from you, as mugshots does. While it seems unfair, I can’t see how it constitutes harassment.

  4. Rob

    Looks like these people are getting a taste of what it’s like to be on the SO registry. Hopefully this event will somehow connect to SO registry photo exploitation and the damage it causes. Hopefully.

  5. Tired of this

    This is excellent news. Looks like karma is finally catching up to those SOBs. My mugshot comes up 1st in a Google search of my name thanks to their website. I hope their fellow travelers take note of this.

  6. mike r

    Man i need a citation to the actual complaint or indictment to be able to use this against them….Anyone????

  7. Chris F

    So, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is admitting that publishing this type of information results in problems when “they look for a job, housing, or try to build relationships with others”?

    How can he justify the sex offender registry doing this to people for life even after serving their court ordered sentence and returning to the public? Is spite of any laws, they are still discriminated against and the AG is admitting that. This needs to be used against California to stop people from being on any type of registry without proper Substantive Due Process to keep off those that don’t need that type of punishment and discrimination. You can use his own words against him.

    • AO

      Because for RC’s it’s in the “safety interest of the public”. Basically, we’re the only class of citizen for whom protections are null and void.

      • New Person

        So you’re saying we’re second class citizens such that we don’t share the same equal rights? = )

        • CR

          Isn’t that obvious?

          Sorry, I know you were stating the obvious on purpose, but I couldn’t resist. The truth is that it is painfully obvious to all of us on the registry, and largely to our families and friends. And there is some evidence that it is becoming obvious to more and more people with half a brain and no axe to grind…

  8. concerned

    2 owners were just arrested in FLORIDA

  9. Tim Moore

    So if the registry is abolished, the internet will still hold our information. There will need to be a lot of clean. This will have to be part of the restitution. It’s like the unexploded ordinance still plaguing countries like Viet Nam.

    • New Person

      Remember Chief Justice Roberts saying that the registry isn’t like being bandied about a town square in the 2003 Smith v Doe decision? It’s not. It’s far, far worse than a town square. It’s the whole world knowing this and the federal government is an accomplice, especially with the IML!

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