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SC: Charleston sheriff unplugs mugshot websites

postandcourier.com – 5/26/18]

Once upon a time, we named and shamed by putting the accused in stocks on the town square. Now we put them on the internet.

I am omitting the names because it is impossible to sort the innocent from the guilty. “South Carolina Hottie Bookings,” on a website called Arrests.org, isn’t troubled by such details. On this one website, there are mugshots of 1,000 women arrested in South Carolina over the past two years, many on nothing-burger charges.

Mind you, not one of them was convicted of anything when her mugshot was published. There is the 21-year-old arrested on New Year’s Eve in Charleston for public intoxication. The baby-faced 18-year-old arrested in Myrtle Beach for trying to buy beer. And the 18-year-old from Florence with the ubiquitous “charges unknown.” But no matter, it’s the “hottie’s” mugshot that matters. And there is a place for sometimes lewd comments.

Police mugshots have been around forever — it’s the internet that has changed everything. Nothing in the Constitution requires county jails around the country to post arrest mugshots online, but they do because they are public records.

This has spawned an entire industry of websites that run mugshots. Some charge hundreds or thousands of dollars to take them down. Last week, the California attorney general filed extortion and money laundering charges against four men alleged to be behind Mugshots.com.

Two years ago, the South Carolina Legislature made a good-faith effort to do something by requiring websites to delete the arrest information if the accused can show they have been cleared. The legislation has done little to nothing to slow websites, many of them offshore, or shakedown artists who prey on people desperate to salvage their reputations.

While these efforts are overdue, there is a simpler answer and it is no farther away than your local county jail. The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office just made a change that may save countless people years of grief. Other South Carolina counties should follow suit.

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Join the discussion

  1. David

    I’m sorry to read how a Mugshots.com website ruined the emergency room doctors life. At the same time, does anyone bother to look at how the Registry is ruining more than a millions of lives (registrants & family) everyday, all the time??

  2. AJ

    Looks like maybe the whole mugshot-shaming system is starting to crumble. Good to see there are rational LEAs out there who see what’s going on. Too bad legislators don’t…or don’t care.

    For about a year, I’ve been telling people around me there’s a privacy backlash brewing. I’ve chalked it up to Snowden (I disagree with his method, but agree with his goal and outcome) casting light on how much of a Big Brother/Bully Uncle Sam is. Net Neutrality, as well as the FB stuff, IMO, has people starting to reconsider the convenience/privacy balance. It cannot come soon enough.

    • E

      Europe’s GDPR just came into effect. Maybe a monster, but a privacy monster I could support here.

      BTW: America is NOT the land of second chances, as he states. Most nations are WAY ahead of us on giving people second chances, but we keep that delusion going because politicians keep saying it.

  3. Nicholas Maietta

    Not really related, but i’ll just leave this here: I noticed that Mugshots.com has a reverse proxy that is still up, but at least one of the servers on the backend is down. It’s a hit and miss, but mostly a miss when trying to load their website.

    • Lake County

      I can’t access their website at all after many tries. Lol. Finally Karma gets them b^st^rds.

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