As part of Huffington Post’s What’s Working series, the founder of the National Expungement Project take to task the internet for its lack of information on expungements. An expungement is the legal process by which someone convicted of, or charged with, a crime (the capacity differs by state) erases or modifies their record to no longer show the conviction.
Besides the lack of relevant information, part of the issue founders Jon Tippens and Jason Tashea identify with the internet is websites who “prey on mugshots.” Disproportionately affected by this phenomenon are racial minorities, who make up the majority of arrests in the United States. Because mugshots are made public, websites like mugshotsonline.com, the chief offenders, take mugshots made available to the public in 35 states and post them online forever. Unfortunately, anyone can access the site, search the person in question’s name, and potentially come up with a photograph. Although, the site’s disclaimer warns users not to use information on the site for hiring employees, they have no control over what potential employers do with the information the website provides. Furthermore, the saying, “What’s been seen cannot be unseen,” comes to mind.
This can cause huge problems for those seeking employment. Because an expungement, in some cases, wipes clean a criminal record, mugshotsonline unfairly maintains a database with mugshots of people who were never convicted of a crime. What’s more, mugshotsonline is the custodian of the data on their website, and cannot be forced to take it down without a lengthy civil proceeding.
By clicking on a person’s mugshot, the website leads viewers to instantcheckmate.com, a database of personal information from which a report is prepared to anyone searching for information not he individual in the photo. This report allegedly includes personal information, arrest records, location data, related persons, sex offenders, licenses, and contact information. It also searches every social media site, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Essentially, the site is exactly like Spokeo or another personal information tracking website.
After a painstakingly long process, instantcheckmate.com asks for your personal information as well, including name and email address. We didn’t proceed past that point. Regardless, this is a prime example of what Tippens and Tashea are concerned with – that anyone can create a website that preserves a person’s arrest, even arrests without cause, so that the world can view it.
We, like Tippens and Tashea, are interested in supplying relevant information and expungement services to those in need of expungements. Mugshotsonline, on the other hand, is simply interested in furthering the struggles of people who are undeserving because we believe there is an overall benefit to society when more people have access to better jobs and housing, and are spared of unjust maligning.
If you need information on how to begin the process of your expungement, please contact my office today.