Floridians with mug shots may have some recourse against companies who post the pictures online without consent.
Gov. Ron DeSantis Monday signed a new law (SB 1046) that will require mug shot publishers to remove booking photos if requested by the person featured in the image.
The new law comes with penalties. If the publisher doesn’t remove the photo within 10 days of written notice, they face a daily $1,000 penalty.
The change could give thousands of Floridians a second chance, according to supporter Blake Mathesie. Mathesie, a second-year law student at Florida State University, worked with bill sponsors, Republicans Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Jason Fischer, to get the law passed.
Mathesie told Florida Politics in March that he first met with lawmakers in 2020 to suggest the legislation. His passion came from his own personal experience of having a mug shot posted online for a charge a court dismissed.
Authorities in 2018 charged Mathesie, then a 23-year-old undergraduate at the University of Florida, with felony battery after he broke up a bar fight at work. A judge dismissed the charges and wrote a nine-page opinion criticizing the arresting agency’s police work.
“This Court did not find the victim’s testimony credible,” the opinion adds. “The defendant did nothing to the victim and only involved himself when security failed to appear, and the patrons began to stumble.”
But the mug shot is still online. Mathesie said the photo had been brought up in interviews.
“The publication of these mug shots not only violates due process, but it hurts the personal and professional prospects of those affected,” Mathesie said. “A mug shot is taken at the lowest point in someone’s life.”
A staff analysis agreed, noting 77% of employers Google their job applicant’s name during the hiring process, which could present a problem because Fischer said more than 700,000 mug shots of Floridians are published a year.
A law passed in 2017 was supposed to crack down on the issue. That law prohibited mug shot publishers from demanding money for the removal of a mug shot.
But mug-shot publishers can still make money from ad revenue.
Fischer said publishers modified their business model by deploying bots to automatically gather and publish mug shots to generate profitable traffic to the website.
“It can tarnish someone’s impression of the people, even if they’ve been acquitted or they’ve not been charged,” Fischer said during the bill’s second reading on the House floor.
The new law takes effect July 1.