Google Goes After Mugshot Sites

I was delighted to read that Google has finally decided to tweak its algorithm to downgrade the so-called Mugshot sites. These sites publish the mugshots and arrest details of individuals who have been arrested for a crime, even when the charges are dropped or the individual pleads to a deal which does not result in a criminal record.

The sites usually work closely with a so-called removal service which will remove your name from their website for a payment of $400 or so. Some charge more; some charge less. Most of the sites also have a free removal process, but my clients have reported to me that the free removal services is overly cumbersome and the sites will only comply if there is an express statute banning the publication of the information. Thus, if the offender pleads to a deferred adjudication with no criminal record, many of these sites will leave the charges up even though the individiual has never been convicted of an offense.

There is also a rising grass roots movement against these
sites. Many people feel that they have been the victim of blackmail and that even when they capitulate and pay the money, their name promptly prompts up on a new server. It effectively becomes a game of “whack a mole.”

The article also reports that many credit card processors have refused to handle these removal businesses and that PayPal has banned them as well. While I feel positive about these developments, my unscientific experiment showed that these sites still come up on the top with respect to my former clients with sheltered convictions. Amending the Fair Credit Reporting Act to cover these sites would be the answer in this author’s opinion. It already covers some
dissemination of criminal records.

NACDL Launches Former Offender Restoration Project

On November 24, 2012, NACDL launched a very valuable resource on the web which outlines the rights that are restored to former offenders after serving their sentence, together with a listing of many of the collateral consequences they still face. That resource is available here.

Mich Legislature Considers New Juvenile Expungment Bill

The Michigan House has before it House Bill 5600 which will liberalize the standards for granting expungments for juveniles. The Bill will expand the number of adjudications they can have and remove some of the statutory prohibitions on expungment. This a great thing. As we learn more about the juvenile brain, it is clear that they are not mini-adults and are capable of change. As colleges and other institutions have started background checking applicants, our old path was forcing juveniles down the wrong path and towards a “cliff.” HB5600 goes a long way to fixing this problem. Here is a link to our current expungment law.

MI COA Says That An Expungment Does Not Entitle a Defendant to Get His Fingerprints Returned

The Defendants in the Benjamin case sucessfully completed their probation and the charges against them were dropped. At the conclusion of these proceedings, the trial court ordered the destruction of their fingerprints and arrest cards pursuant to MCL 333.7411. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Appellate Court stated that even though the Defendants successfully completed their probation and the charges against them were dismissed, the defendants were not found “not guilty” for purposes of the expungement statute, (MCL 28.24398). The trial court erroneously equated a discharge and dismissal under MCL 333.7411 with a finding of not guilty; a defendant must either be found guilty or plead guilty in order to benefit from MCL 333.7411. People v Benjamin, Court of Appeals No. 281899.