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Shakedown Or Public Service? Mug Shot Websites Spread

Publication Date: 
September 20, 2012
Chicago Tribune (Reuters)
Adam Tanner

Professor Robert Weisberg spoke with the Chicago Tribune's Adam Tanner on how websites charging money to remove mug shots may "skirt the line" of extortion.

Janet LaBarba drank two glasses of wine during dinner at an upscale Dallas restaurant the night she broke up with her boyfriend. Later at a bar she ordered a beer. At home, she found herself crying as she readied for bed. She decided to go visit a friend.

Driving back long past midnight, she ignored blinking traffic lights and cruised through a stop sign. She was hauled down to the police station, charged with drunk driving, and photographed. It was the second time in six months.


Several legal experts interviewed for this article said seeking money to remove mug shots from the Internet does not qualify as a crime such as extortion, since extortion requires a threat ahead of time to post the image unless the mug shot subject pays.

"Wow - it does seem to come pretty close to the line," Robert Weisberg, co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, said upon learning about such sites. "I'd say it skirts the line but may stop just short. (It) depends on how a reasonable person would perceive this in terms of fear."