New law banning mug shot ‘extortion’
signed by governor.
On February 16, 2016, Governor Haley signed into
law S. 255, a bill sponsored by Senator Paul
Thurmond (R). The bill – sometimes referred to
as the “Mug Shot Extortion Bill” – is designed
to address businesses that make money from
publishing mug shots and arrest records. In
addition, S. 255 makes important changes to
South Carolina’s expungement laws.
In order to take advantage of this new law, a
person is required to:
•Make a request to the
company in writing and send the request by
•Includes their name, date of
arrest, and the name of the arresting law
•Send copies of certified
documents, such as a disposition sheet, that
show the charges have been dismissed;
•Include the URL or other information about
where such arrest and booking records are
located in the company’s publication.
New law banning mug
shot ‘extortion’ signed by governor
Sen. Paul Thurmond (File/SCETV)
legislation signed into law by Governor Nikki
Haley on Tuesday would crack down on websites
that post mug shots and charge hundreds of
dollars to remove them.
Both the House
and Senate unanimously approved the final
language earlier this month. The new law targets
those websites that post arrest records and
booking photos by declaring such sites to be
“transacting business” in South Carolina.
Lead sponsor State Sen. Paul Thurmond,
R-Charleston, said such sites currently demand
money to take the mug shot down even if the
individual is later cleared of any crime.
“What they do is they extort money from
people,” the Charleston attorney said.
“Obviously, if the charge has been dismissed or
they’ve been found not guilty, then the
information is not accurate. So what they end up
doing currently is they will request hundreds,
if not thousands, of dollars to remove it from
The new legislation bans
those websites from charging a fee to remove the
information. It also requires the site to remove
the photo if contacted by an individual who was
later cleared of the charges or had them
dropped. The website operator would face up to
$1,000 in fines and/or two months in prison if
they do not comply.
Thurmond said having mug shots so easily
visible on the internet can prevent a person
from being hired or hurt them in child custody
“Frankly, some of these websites
provide a service to the public in that regard,”
he admitted. “But when you are found not guilty,
or when the charge is (not prosecuted) or
dismissed, you should have the comfort to know
that you’re going to be extorted for hundreds of
dollars by some random company just because they
pulled your mug shot off of a public domain.”
The law does exempt newspapers or online
news sites, but encourages them to post updated
information if the individual is cleared. The
language was added at the request of the South
Carolina Press Association, which stated the
public has a right to know if prominent
individuals or elected officials are arrested
and have the charges dropped.
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