Florida Law Firm Discusses Legality of Websites Hosting Mugshots

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The Umansky Law Firm talks about sites like arrested.org and mugshots.com hoarding thousands of mugshots of individuals, many of whom have had their charges dropped.

William Umansky

William Umansky

...not all criminal charges can be sealed or expunged. Most misdemeanors and some felonies can be sealed or expunged.

One of the most significant statutes upholding the rights of the people in the United States is the principle that in a court of law those charged with a crime are innocent until proven guilty. It is this concept that criminal defense attorneys stand on when they represent clients in court, and it is the concept which inevitably changes the perception of justice in our court system.

Though this principle is one of the foundations of justice in the United States, the implications surrounding “innocent until proven guilty” can get complicated. Individuals that are eventually found innocent in court proceedings still maintain a record. This record can then be expunged or sealed according to the guidelines of their particular state.

The Umansky Law Firm, a criminal defense and personal injury law firm located in central Florida, has helped many residents of Florida through the expungement process. According to their website thelawman.net, “certain charges can be cleared or cleansed from one’s criminal record through the legal process known as sealing or expungement. Arrests that result in the finding of adjudication of guilt withheld (can be sealed and thus removed from public records), subject to certain statutory exceptions.”
The information on the website proceeds to say that “not all criminal charges can be sealed or expunged. Most misdemeanors and some felonies can be sealed or expunged.”

William Umansky, founder of the Umansky Law Firm, quotes that the difference between an expungement and a sealing is that “an expungement removes the arrested record from being a public record. A sealing is not a complete erasure of the files. It seals or closes the file from public view.”

Some websites are exploiting the lengths expungements and sealings can go in protecting the criminal background of an individual.

Websites like arrests.org and mugshots.com post mug shots with any information that could be found on the crime, and then they found ways to capitalize on someone’s online exposure by charging those to have their information removed.

A October 13th, 2013 article by the New York Times named 'Mugged By a Mugshot Online' stated that “it was only a matter of time before the Internet found a way to monetize the humiliation that came with an arrest,” so an expungement came up short in complete background removal.

Sites like these and more have found loopholes in the privacy that an individual should be entitled to, along with the ability to have the arrest expunged because of ultimate innocence. Many people have never been in trouble with the law, so a false arrest can lead to a mark on their reputation.

Criminal attorneys across the country have been working to develop methods to protect their clients. Legislators have combined their efforts with attorneys to have these websites banned from the Internet, but it has been a difficult task. Until Google came up with a solution that has lawmakers applauding.

On October 3, 2013, Google performed a task in the tech arena when they adjusted the algorithms in the Google search engine. This action has succeeded in pushing these offensive websites farther down in the Google search results. In other words, Mugshots.com and the others have been relocated to a less prominent place in the scope of Google query results.

Barry Schwartz of “Search Engine Land” expressed in several articles recently that Google has been working for the past several months to update the algorithm because they saw that sites like these were unofficial and promoting misfortune with their tactics leading to unnecessary suffering.

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Sarah Zielke
The Umansky Law Firm
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