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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: July 8, 2021 02:34 PM
From: Representative Ryan E. Mackenzie
To: All House members
Subject: Prohibition on Fee to Remove Booking Photographs
In the near future, I intend to introduce legislation that amends the Crimes Code to create the offense of prohibition against publishing or disseminating booking photographs for commercial use.

In most criminal cases, when an individual is arrested, charged with the commission of a criminal offense or is reasonably believed to be a fugitive of justice, a law enforcement agency will take their fingerprints and photograph. This photograph is often referred to as a booking photograph or mugshot. In the last decade, an entire industry of “mugshot websites” has emerged. These websites obtain arrest details and photographs of individuals from various government websites. They then display hundreds or even thousands of booking photographs of individuals on their website and use that data to create pages that rank well in many popular search engines.

Consequently, when a person who has been arrested searches their name these mugshot websites will often be some of the first results. The sites then charge between $30 to $400 to have the person’s information removed from the site and there are multiple sites a person must pay to remove all this content. Often these arrests may not lead to any guilty conviction, but these websites fail to display that information. Because of the harm this information can do to a person’s employment prospects, personal relationships and reputation, many feel compelled to pay the various sites the fee to remove the content.

The new offense in my bill would be triggered any time a person who is engaged in publishing or disseminating a booking photograph solicits or accepts a fee or other consideration to remove or modify the photograph. A person convicted under this section commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Any additional fee or consideration they receive or solicit is deemed to constitute a separate violation.

The activity mugshots websites engage in is nothing more than extortion. To date over 15 states, have laws that prohibit these websites from charging fees to remove photographs, including Ohio and Maryland. It is imperative that Pennsylvania be the next to join them.

Please join me in co-sponsoring in this important legislation.

Introduced as HB1736