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Clearing Your Name: Removing Mugshots from the Internet in Arizona

Arizona Law Restricts Publishing Mugshots Online

In 2019, Arizona enacted legislation making it illegal to publish mugshots online or in print with the intent to obtain payment for removal. This includes photos taken during arrests, bookings, and other law enforcement procedures.

Some key provisions of Arizona’s mugshot law:

  • Websites cannot charge a fee for removing mugshots. This applies even if the fee is labeled as a “service charge” or given some other description.
  • Civil penalties between $500-30,000 can be charged for each day a mugshot is left up illegally.
  • Photos published for advertising/solicitation purposes are illegal. Legitimate news reporting is still allowed.
  • Law enforcement can only release mugshots to the public if doing so serves a law enforcement purpose.

So in most cases, having your mugshot appear randomly online in Arizona would be against the law. The next sections share how to exercise your rights to get unauthorized photos removed.

Sending Takedown Requests

If you discover your mugshot published online, the first step is to contact the website hosting it directly and request its removal. Make sure to keep records of all communication.

Highlight the relevant Arizona laws explained above prohibiting publishing and charging to remove mugshots. Be firm yet polite in insisting they take down the photo immediately at no cost.

If it’s a news website or blog, they may argue the post is journalism protected under the First Amendment. However, the story would need to have a legitimate public interest purpose beyond just documenting your arrest. Often these news sites didn’t even write their own story but rather copied a press release or report elsewhere. So push back if they cannot demonstrate a genuine need to maintain the post with your photo.

Contacting Google to Delist Search Results

If the website refuses to remove your mugshot, the next step is requesting that Google delist the pages with the photos from search results.

Google provides a process called “requesting a removal under applicable law” to ask for the removal of pages with certain types of sensitive personal information. Mugshots may qualify depending on the situation.

To request delisting of search results in this way, you must:

  1. Verify you are the person shown in the mugshots or are legally authorized to act for them.
  2. Identify the specific webpage URLs you want removed.
  3. Explain how the pages violate the mugshot publishing laws in Arizona or otherwise break Google’s policies. Links to supporting legal resources are helpful.
  4. Provide any other documentation that supports your position. Police reports, court orders, or communications with websites can strengthen the request.

If approved, the pages will no longer appear in Google search results. They may still exist online but become much harder to find. This can significantly reduce the harm of unauthorized mugshot posts.

Learn more about requesting removals from Google here.

Using Mugshot Removal Services

Another option is hiring a mugshot removal service to handle contacting websites and search engines for you. They charge a fee but take care of submitting removal requests, negotiating with site owners, and monitoring to ensure the mugshots stay down.

Costs range widely based on the number of sites involved and level of service. Ask upfront about their success rate, average turnaround time, and policies if mugshots reappear later.

Be wary of any service that promises removals within extremely short timeframes or guarantees permanent deletion. Achieving these outcomes often involves lengthy processes of building trust with website administrators or pursuing legal action.

Mugshot removal services that operate nationally may have experience dealing specifically with Arizona’s laws. Make sure to ask about their familiarity with local regulations.

Can I Sue Over Unauthorized Mugshot Posting?

If websites refuse to remove your mugshot despite multiple requests, you may be able to sue them for violations of Arizona law. Remedies could include:

  • Financial damages for reputational harm caused
  • Orders requiring mugshot removal
  • Recovery of civil penalties provided in the statute

To succeed with a lawsuit, you would need to show:

  • The website had no legitimate purpose or legal right to post your mugshot
  • They ignored legal requests to remove the photo
  • You experienced quantifiable impacts from the unauthorized posting

The process can be lengthy and complex, so consult with an attorney experienced in internet law and defamation cases when considering legal action.

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