How Do You Remove Mugshots for Free?

February 18, 2021
You can remove mugshots for free, but it's harder than you think.

Can you remove mugshots for free? We show you when it’s possible and when it’s time to call in a pro

First, How Does a Mugshot Get Online?

To understand how you can get a mugshot removed for free, first you have to understand how a mugshot got onto a website. In general, a mugshot or booking photograph goes through the following steps to get put online:

  1. The arrest and booking process. When a person is arrested, they are transferred into a jail cell. But in order to keep track and identify the arrested individual in records, the law enforcement agency completes what is called processing. This processing includes the taking of a booking photograph, or what is more commonly referred to as a mugshot.
  2. Someone submits an FOIA for new or existing mugshots in a jurisdiction. FOIA stands for Freedom of Information Act and what it is, or what it is supposed to be, is legislation that holds government agencies and journalists accountable for what they do and say. Unfortunately, enterprising individuals have sought to undermine that and are using an FOIA request in order to get the mugshots of people recently arrested. Anyone can submit FOIAs for mugshots, for example, they can be a journalist representing a local paper, or they can be an individual with no connections at all.
  3. The photograph is uploaded to a website. With the mugshot in hand, the individual can upload it onto their desired publication. This can mean a local newspaper website or, more often the case, what we call a mugshot website. These websites are where you will have to focus your energy when looking at how to remove mugshots online for free.

What is a Mugshot Website?

Mugshot websites are those websites that exist solely to host mugshots. They presume to serve primarily as a sort of notice to the public — and in part they maybe do. But they also prey on those individuals whose photographs they post.

This is because once a mugshot is posted on a mugshot website, many will refuse to take it down unless the person’s who mugshot it is can properly prove exoneration of the crime or, more often, pay a dictated “ransom” fee. This ransom fee can be a couple of hundred dollars or even a couple of thousand depending upon the website and the arrested crime. In other words, they work to make it close to impossible to remove mugshots online for free.

But, even worse, it isn’t just your picture that a mugshot website can publish. Underneath a booking photograph, a mugshot website can also include:

  • The person’s name
  • The person’s age
  • The person’s job
  • The person’s general location
  • And even the person’s ability to apply for credit

How to Remove Mugshots Online for Free

The good news is that in the last decade, a lot of the biggest mugshot websites have faced lawsuits from individuals and agencies for the misuse of peoples’ photographs and information online. Those lawsuits have led to big changes in many states’ laws. Now, many states prohibit mugshot websites from publishing mugshots on any website that will then require individuals to pay a fee to have them removed. But if your booking photograph is already online, there are still a number of steps to remove mugshots online for free.

First Things to Look at for How to Remove Mugshots Online for Free

  1. Check the state’s laws. First things, first. Check the laws of the state in which you were arrested. Many states now have laws on the book that will either prohibit the distribution of mugshots on mugshot websites altogether or will have a clear outline of what a person needs to do to remove mugshots online for free, such as submitting written documentation via the mail to request for the website to remove mugshots online for free.
  2. Were you cleared of your charges? If so, then you can every easily remove mugshots online for free by simply sending the websites your cleared arrest record. Almost all states now have laws that require the removal of a person’s information in the event they have been cleared of the crime.
  3. Was the case sealed or expunged? In some situations, you may be able to still have your information removed online even if you pled or were found guilty of a charge. But it will often require a lawyer and more court work. Here, you will need to have your case either sealed or expunged, and then you can use that paperwork, if successful, to make your case to remove mugshots online for free.
  4. Are you the victim of identity theft? Some people may have their information online despite being completely innocent of the crime. This arises from a case of mistaken identity or identity theft. Most often what occurs is that someone else’s booking photograph is shown attached with the innocent person’s full name, age, location, and other identifying information. In these cases, you can not only request for the website to remove mugshots online for free, but you can pursue a civil case if the offending website does not remedy the situation immediately.

Going Into Escalation: How to Get Mugshots Deleted When the Above Doesn’t Apply

Just because you can’t get your mugshot removed due to the charges being dismissed or because of an inability to get the case sealed, doesn’t mean you should ignore the mugshots of you online. Having a mugshot posted where it can be easily found can and often will negatively impact one’s life. They can hinder one’s ability to do things like get a job at a preferred employer or enjoy certain social standings. A person also simply doesn’t deserve to have their reputation forever hindered by a crime they served their time for.

But how do you remove mugshots online for free when you’ve been convicted of the crime and the information attached to your booking photograph is correct? You can try the following strategies:

  • Appeal to the mugshot webmaster for other grounds. Just because they aren’t legally required to take down a booking photograph, doesn’t mean that you can’t still persuade the mugshot website to. Use their question or contact page to submit a request and ask what can be done to get it removed. Make your case for why your photo should be removed.
  • Contact Google and other search engines. In some cases, Google and other search engines have agreed to either outright remove certain search engine results or suppress them. However, while you can ask them directly to do this for free, generally this method is most successful when applied by a reputation and online removal company that has experience using the right appeals to get undesired content removed.
  • Bury the bad results with good ones. This method tends to be the one with the most success for those individuals who were found or pled guilty to the charges they were arrested for. Here, the goal is not the complete removal of a mugshot and the connected personal information from online, but rather the full burial of it so that only someone who knows what website to look on, will ever find it. You can do this for free by taking a bunch of pictures of yourself and using them to post on various websites and create blog-like content with your image and information on websites like Tumblr and WordPress. Be sure to caption each photo with your name and use the exact spelling and spacing that is used with your mugshot. While your mugshot photo and information won’t be immediately buried, after several months of continual updates, it will start dropping from search engine results completed with your name and information.

If You Can’t Get it Done on Your Own, Call in the Pros

While it is possible for you to follow all of the above strategies and remove mugshots online for free on your own, it can be rough. It can be overwhelming And it can require a lot of work. There’s a lot of messaging to appeal to webmasters as well as legal paperwork in the event that you are trying to get your mugshot removed following state laws. Or if you opt for the burial method either by choice or by necessity, then you may not have the time or social media know-how for doing it effectively. For all these reasons and more, you might consider hiring a professional reputation company like ours to get the job done.

Need a mugshot removed? Contact us to start the removal process today.