Overheard on CNN.com: Published mug shots - public service or legal blackmail?
May 30th, 2012
04:57 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Published mug shots - public service or legal blackmail?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Are some U.S. citizens paying for the crimes - real or alleged - of their past, long after they’ve done their time?

Donald McMahon, a convicted criminal turned contributing member of society, thinks so and shared his story with CNN. McMahon said he is constantly haunted by the ghosts of his past, his former self constantly resurrected on the pages of publications and websites that post old mug shots then demand large sums of money to remove or hide them.

The story was a catalyst for debate on CNN.com, causing readers to opine on everything from rights to privacy versus the rights of the accused to what’s fair in the pursuit of earning a dollar.

MugshotMadness: As a publisher of a few "mug shot" sites, I feel that I am doing a service for the communities in which we publish. I understand how having your mug shot posted online could adversely affect someone. You also have to understand a couple other things. This info is public and if you had not been arrested, your photo would not have been on our sites. We are one of the few sites who do not not charge to remove a record IF you can send us verifiable information that the charges were dropped or you were found not guilty. I will admit that I am in this business to make a buck, but that does not mean I do not have a heart. If you show up on my sites, it's because of your actions and not because I am trying to extort you.

MichelleBD: "Stop being a victim/take responsibility...." and similar BS mantra sound like something off Fox News. These people are trying to move on with their lives while this lowlife is digging up dirt and publishing it and then demanding large sums of money to take it off. That's like tossing an anvil to a drowning victim and then blaming them for their own drowning. The people that own these sites could not care less about the public's interest, it's all about making a quick buck instead of working at a real job.

In a digital age - is your reputation your responsibility? Or do we need government intervention?

Kristine Harley: How about creating new content about yourself? Blog your positive achievements, post constructive comments on sites, upload videos to YouTube and get friends to comment on them. Build a website of your achievements, your charitable intentions, etc. At least counter your past with your present.

pearlyQ: We should at least be protected from "for-profit mug shot websites and newspapers" that only wish to exploit and extort. They are currently "legal" because arrest pictures and records are legal. These records should only be legal for government agencies and authorized parties use.

Your past, your problem?

meglee56623: I'm sorry, but if you did the crime then you deserve to have you mug shot out there for the world to see! You apparently didn't care at the time and did your crime anyways so you asked for it. I don't feel sorry for you one bit. Everyone and I mean everyone has something horrible happen in their life at one point or the other. My dad died when I was 14 years old! And I was heartbroken ... couldn't eat or sleep for days and I was finally put on meds from being so depressed. That did not give me the excuse to go get hooked on drugs or drink my life away or anything else people do and then blame the life events on it. Grow up people.

pabloinbama: I agree.  Stop acting like a victim and take control / responsibility for your own life.

pfcusmc1:  Good job on making the story about you. This guy didn't drink his life away either. He recognized the problem and took corrective action. The point at which he reached rock bottom was different from yours but from the story, it sounds like to me he is a productive member of society. Maybe one day there will be a website out there exploiting mentally unstable people and your picture will pop up on it from the time you spent grieving you fathers death. You, too, are a healthy productive member of society now but at one point in time, you weren't.

A crime in itself?

Lauren Starling:  This IS extortion, and unfortunately it's usually against people that can afford it the least and now won't be able to get that job they need to ensure they stay out of a life of crime.  A person in this situation doesn't have many options: Either: 1) pay the extortion sites to remove them 2) pay an attorney for nothing, most likely, as this is all legal. 3) Pay an online reputation manager  like myself to bury the results. There is a fourth option, though and that is to take control and do it yourself. You don't have to be a genius to dominate the first and second page for your name on Google. I'm currently doing case studies on the fastest and surest ways to fight back against these sites in the search engines. Once I finish, I'll publish the information I obtained in hopes to help people like Donald learn how best...

Joe Smith: This is blackmail plain and simple.

MichelleBD:  Exactly.  Exploiting people for financial gain.

Shining a light on the failures of our justice system?

Keepalow:  It's a matter of choice. I have chose to live my life without ever seeing the inside of a jail cell. So why would I feel sorry for anyone that had the same opportunity but chose to F up.

Jackbnimbler: Apparently you know little about what is really going on in the U.S. You should go to a prison and look around, get to know some of the circumstances.

And it's not always your choice ... The law is not always black and white but shades of gray, as no doubt you've heard.

KlintzCNN  It's "just" a mugshot, right?  No harm.  No foul. Wow.

Chris Koffend,  Yeah, I am sure that all these people with their mug shots on line are the victims of wrongful arrest.

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. JJ

    My issue is that some of these sites seem to post ARREST photos. People can be arrested but never charged or convicted. The fact that a mug shot exists doesn't make someone a criminal. Posting the legally available FACTS of a conviction is one thing. Posting random mug shots is just garbage and does a disservice to the public. If you post someone's face on your website, you should also allow them space to post a rebuttal or update FACTS about the situation, such as I did my time, learned my lesson and am now a productive member of society as evidenced by [insert achievements since conviction]. In addition, while Mr. McMahon et al., might have been convicted of a crime, spouses and children were not and do not deserve to have their lives ruined by a lowlife out to make a buck from someone else's misery.

    May 30, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jj U stole my name lol

      Heres a thought: how about not committing a crime in the first Place. That makes too much sense tho!

      May 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. chrissy

    lol what a poor imitation of TORI you are! Better try a different line of work cuz you suck at this one!

    May 30, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @chrissy, was her fan club at work again? We are almost home and the real deal is sound asleep, thankfully.

      May 30, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. chrissy

    @ JJ, i totally agree with you. And also they should not have to pay large sums of money to have them removed. Its like these sites are extorting money from these people.

    May 30, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Smako

    Surveillance cameras should be illegal also. They not only support racism by portrayal of minorities committing crime more than whites, but they are a witness that cannot be cross examined.

    May 30, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Online PD photos of pervs

    Take a look. Not one of the mugshots of adults convicted of child se x crimes is of an 'Holy Man'. (religious leader). Yet, we all know of the thousands of cases involving, say, a priest raypeing an 16 yr. old male.
    Go ahead and search your local Police website. These holy boy rollers are still getting away with it.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dazzle ©

    Thank you for the funny welcome back.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. HIDE BEHIND

    Our society is one sick puppy, was s time a person paid the penalty got out and was returned full citizenship, today they make every crimes penalty a sentence for life.
    Does anyone realize just how easy it is to break a law, in my state ther are over 2000 ways you may of violated a gun law without knowing.
    IF T IS LEGAL, someone will profit.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 'Tis NOT

    It is not those whom who actually do the crimes. It is those whom see these crimes being done, even in the name of God overseas, and not reporting them to the priper officials who are at the root of what ails .US.
    One in seven-teen shoplifters actually get reported even after beibg seen, for example. God only kbows how many holy men rayped younger men and are under the disguised protection of seperation of church and state. (attorney-client priviledge extended to church confessional)s

    May 30, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. 2nd hand ho mo se xuality

    For every crime, there are witnesses. Hundreds of witnesses in some cases.
    It is not our nations criminals who are leading US to ruin. It is those whom see these crimes being done and failing to report them that are at the root of America's problems. (co-dependant, doormat, tube suckers of bad men, ect).

    May 31, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ziva

    Has everyone been drinking tonight? Most of these posts make no sense. Maybe Zombie Bath Salt is to blame?

    May 31, 2012 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
  11. ClemVinson

    Stop playing their game. Its obvious the laws are set up for the common citizen to lose in this country, so why play the game? Best thing to do is stop participating. Then, if (and when) you get arrested it won't matter what they do with your mugshot, cause you're not participating. The first step to making anything better is to quit doing it wrong...

    May 31, 2012 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
    • A.Logan

      I am struggling. I recently had an interview doing public relations for a company in the corporate offices, your reputation is everything in media. The guy met me loved the interview and it was pretty much a sure thing that I got the job. I checked my linkedin the day after the interview and saw that he viewed my page, which led me to know that he "googled" me. Sure enough two weeks later i received the letter sorry but yuor not qualified. When I'm googled the 2nd thing that comes up in my mugshot. says violation of probation. I had a traffic ticket that I could not afford to pay. I was then put on probation. I missed a payment after i informed the officer that I can't afford to pay this month and he sent me to jail. I did not kill, hurt, sell drugs, or do anything harmful, i was just a broke college student who supoosedly didn't yeild to traffic and was speeding 10 miles over the limit and was issued a $600 fine. I lost a job becuase of that mugshot that made me out to look like a criminal!

      July 23, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  12. mickey1313

    By allowing this to happen you are effectively saying that you will be punished forever for your crime regardless of you have paid your debt to society. It will increase the odds that the criminal will continue their life of crime

    May 31, 2012 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. ITSOWONDERFULL

    What FACEBOOK promised and what the government could never do has come to pass as "liberty"
    AGENDA- $$$$ >A true society of investment must have losers worldwide for the further consolidation
    of "cant fail" wealth. Is there anything truly greater than this? 🙂 Truly – it cannot fail, " a dynamic free
    capital investment pyramid" "Crime is big business- big business is never a crime ." < Donald Trump

    May 31, 2012 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
  14. JM

    Figured the recent DMCA notice (and our long term goals / views) might be interesting in light of the recent media attention. PDFs and info available at JustMugshots.com

    May 31, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  15. Keven

    Everyone has a mugshot or two. whats the big deal? Robert Downey Jr is the biggest star in the world he doesn't care about his mugshot. I wish I had a cool mugshot I would print it on a shirt and walk around wearing it with print. check me out I got arrested once.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
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