HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Berks/Lehigh), that would make it a crime in Pennsylvania to publish or disseminate booking photographs or mugshots for commercial use, passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives today. House Bill 1736
will next be considered by the Senate.
In the last decade, an entire industry has emerged that obtains a person’s mugshot and arrest details from various government websites. These companies then display the booking photos on their website, which turn up when a person searches their name online. Because of the harm this information can do to someone’s employment prospects, personal relationships, and reputation, many feel compelled to pay a fee of up to $400 to remove the content.
“The activity in which these mugshot websites engage is nothing more than extortion,” said Mackenzie. “My legislation provides us with a solution by making it a crime. The new offense would be triggered any time a person who is engaged in publishing or disseminating a mugshot solicits or accepts a fee to remove or modify the photo.”
Under House Bill 1736, the crime would be a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Any additional fee they receive or solicit would be a separate violation.
The measure would also allow for civil penalties under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.
Mackenzie noted that to date, more than 15 states have laws that prohibit these websites from charging fees to remove mugshots, including neighboring Ohio and Maryland.
To view or download a broadcast-quality video of Mackenzie’s remarks in support of the bill, visit here
Representative Ryan Mackenzie
134th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Andy Briggs