Even though Florida’s mugshot law won’t go into effect until July 1, 2018, two of the biggest mugshot websites were brought to the settlement table in Broward county. Mugshots.com, which operates through the company Openbare Dienst International, LLC from Belize, and Jailbase.com, which operates out of St. Kitts, were successfully served and sued in August of this year.
Citing the law that prohibits websites from charging to remove mugshots, the case was dismissed without prejudice as a result of an agreement between the parties. This means that the plaintiff was able to obtain a compromise that was acceptable – while leaving the door open for future litigation.
As has been well documented, mugshot websites are generating great sums of profit from the practice of publishing the mugshots taken after arrest. Many of these websites operate from overseas, hiding their true identities from the same public they exploit. Profit is generated from advertising on their websites, selling the information they collect to other companies, and charging individuals for removal of their photographs. This is particularly harmful for those who were not convicted.
Currently, thirteen states have passed laws that forbid websites from charging a fee to remove a mugshot. Five of those thirteen require a mugshot website to remove records that have been expunged. Failure to follow this law will result in the imposition of civil penalties made up of fines that will be assessed against the operators of the websites. Florida joined these states when Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 118 on June 16, 2017.
From July 1, 2018, Section 943.0586 allows individuals with mugshots posted by these mugshot websites to get them removed, without charge, through a written request sent via registered mail. Once the mugshot website operator has received the request, they have ten calendar days to remove the photograph from their website. If they refuse, then a court may impose a $1,000 per day civil penalty and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs for the individual.
Openbare Dienst Internationale, LLC operates Mugshots.com and their registered agent, as of the publication of this article, is located at 35 New Road, P.O. Box 2391, Belize City, Belize 00000 BZ. This is despite the fact the company has their actual operations run out of Nevis in the West Indies. Additionally, it has not gone through the steps required to be authorized to do business in Florida.
Jailbase.com, the other website, as of the publication of this article, operates out of and can be served at Cayon Street, P.O. Box 45, Basseterre, St. Kitts. Similarly, they too have not gone through the steps required to be authorized to do business in Florida.
While Mugshots.com does not have an opt-out page, Jailbase.com does. It is important to note that Jailbase.com will take 90 days to remove a mugshot, so it is still best for an individual to send the registered agent the written notice outlined in Florida Statute 943.0586.