We Like This One, But …

As a criminal defense attorney, new laws are not something that I get excited about. All too often, new criminal laws address situations that aren’t problems, or create all kinds of other problems and ill effects.

But at least one new law, I can agree with in principle.

Certain websites post pictures of individual’s mugshots. The websites then offer, for a nominal fee, to remove the pictures. It is, frankly, predatory. The nature of the internet is such that once you go down that road, you’ll be paying to remove pictures forever; you’re not paying to have the picture taking out of the public record, you’re paying one company to remove it. Tomorrow, there is a different company. Missouri is moving to make this both a crime, and a civil action.

The point of this legislation is one that we can get behind; these sights play off the embarrassment of people who have been accused, but not proven, of committing a crime. They create repercussion that last many years beyond the arrest and case itself, and there is nothing that we, as criminal defense attorneys can do.

We should not be unaware that there are First Amendment considerations here. It is a slippery slope to go down, making it a crime to publish something. It is not something that we should do lightly. At the end of the day, I err on the side of protecting the presumption of innocence.