Anti-Mugshot Extortion Bill Could Head to South Carolina House for a Vote
A new form of online extortion, similar to revenge porn websites, has been forcing people to pay money to have their mugshots removed. This so-called mugshot extortion could soon be illegal in South Carolina.
Hundreds of thousands of people all over the country, who have been arrested for any number of minor crimes, can have their mugshots stolen from police websites and reposted elsewhere online, regardless of the outcome of the arrest. Even if a person has their criminal record expunged or exonerated, or the charges against them were dropped, a mugshot extortion site could still keep the picture up along with the victim’s name and other personal information – and that can cause serious personal problems for the mugshot extortion victim.
These sites then demand exorbitant fees, sometimes hundreds of dollars, to have the images taken down. Most places do not have specific laws against this type of business, although many opponents and victims have called the process extortion. Now, South Carolina could become one of the first states to take a legal stand against the mugshot extortion business.
A version of the bill was passed by a Senate committee on Tuesday, February 17th. The law, if passed, would require websites to remove mugshots if the victim sends a certified letter stating that they have been acquitted or that charges against them were dropped.
“They literally extort hundreds of dollars from people to remove it. In my opinion, that’s just wrong,” said Sen Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston. “It’s more of a fairness thing to me.”
South Carolina first noticed the mugshot extortion problem in 2012, and Richland County announced in response that the police department would stop putting mugshots online so that extortion sites like mugshots.com would stop downloading and reposting them.
However, there are some groups that oppose the bill because it is currently too broad. The S.C. Press Association and the Motion Picture Association of America both said that the law could be seen as unconstitutional since it dictates what can be published.
“We’re concerned about some unintended consequences that would really impact the media,” said Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association. For example, the new law could be damaging for news organizations, which regularly write about criminal charges and publish mugshots as part of their reporting.
South Carolina Extortion Defense Attorneys
Crimes of extortion are considered felonies and carry severe consequences. Blackmail, bribery, and ransom are all crimes of extortion and can carry up to a 20-year prison sentence. Extortion is sometimes confused with robbery, the unlawful gain of another person’s property through direct force or violence. Extortion is set apart from robbery as it illustrates the willingness of the victim to relinquish goods or services to avoid threatened harm.
If you are under investigation for crimes of extortion, contact the criminal defense attorneys at the Strom Law Firm today. An aggressive legal defense could help you avoid a lengthy prison sentence or even get you acquitted. Here at Strom Law Firm, our experienced criminal defense attorneys will work hard to have the charges against you reduced or even dismissed. Contact us today for a free consultation. 803.252.4800