DENVER (AP) — Companies that post people's police mug shots online and then charge for their removal would face criminal penalties under a bill advanced Monday in the Colorado Senate.
The measure comes as several states are considering legislation addressing the issue. In some cases, companies charge hundreds of dollars to remove booking photos from their websites.
Lawmakers have likened the practice to extortion, and say the online postings damage the reputation of people who sometimes are never convicted of the crime for which they were arrested. As a result, people have trouble getting jobs or renting apartments, lawmakers say.
However, states that have tried to address the issue have run into First Amendment concerns. Mug shots are public record, so Colorado's bill will not prevent anyone from obtaining them. But to get a booking photo, people will have to sign a statement declaring it won't be used for financial gain.
Under the bill, obtaining mug shots to make profit would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine. Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, the measure's sponsor, said she realizes it won't completely block companies from getting people's mug shots.
"But it does take away the incentives for these companies to get them, because their main goal seems to be to make business out of these mug shots by charging someone to remove the picture," she said.