Unfortunately, Google itself doesn’t always have control over what results appear on its search engines. However, if you search for your mugshot online, you can find the specific websites that have posted your mugshot, and ask those sites to take the photo down. It might take some time and patience, but it can be well worth it in the long run, especially when it comes to future employment or housing applications.
The first and easiest way to get websites to take down your mugshot is to provide them with a record of your dismissal and/or expungement documentation. Most sites will take down your photo after receiving this information, especially sites that specifically collect and provide criminal records information. If the site is not an official criminal records site, then you can simply contact the website owner and politely ask them to remove your photo. Rarely will a website owner give you a hard time about this, and most people won’t ask you for an explanation. It’s fairly obvious why you wouldn’t want your mugshot easily available on the internet, after all.
There are a few sites out there that are specifically designed to collect mugshots. Mugshotsonline.com and mugshots.com are two of the biggest and most prominent examples of these. If your mugshot does appear in a Google search, it’s almost always because it’s landed on one of these sites. However, most of these sites will remove your mugshot if you provide them with dismissal or expungement documentation. Always insist that your mugshot be taken down completely, and accept nothing else. Sometimes, websites will try to persuade you to simply update your mugshot with evidence of your dismissal. Do not do this. Adding information to the picture will actually increase its SEO, making it rank even higher in future Google searches.
Believe it or not, it is legal for someone to post your mugshot on their website, and it is legal for them to ask you to pay to have it removed. It’s also legal for them to refuse to remove it. This is why a polite and respectful approach is the best way to get someone to take your photo down. If they become defensive, they’re more likely to dig in their heels and give you a hard time. If you can’t seem to get a particular website owner to budge, you essentially have three options. First, you can take the owner of the website to court. However, since your mugshot is technically considered public information, you’d have a hard time proving that the other person had done something harmful or criminal. Second, you can hire a private agency to remove your mugshots for you. Believe it or not, just as there are websites dedicated to posting mugshots, there are also services dedicated to helping you remove them. These services vary in price, but what they cost in money they often save you in time and piece of mind. Finally, you can simply try to bury your mugshot in other personal content.
For the most part, private websites that have posted your mugshot will be agreeable if you ask them politely to remove your picture, especially if you back up your request with documentation. Where things become a little more difficult is if your mugshot is appearing in Google searches as part of a public record. Many counties in the United States have digitized their public records. Arrests, convictions, and incarcerations are all considered public records under federal law, which means that all US citizens do have the right to legally access that information for up to seven years.
Unfortunately, you can’t legally ask your county to remove your public records from the internet. You can go to your local courthouse and see if it’s possible to simply have the mugshot itself removed, while still allowing the arrest record to remain online. However, most counties will probably refuse this request, and even if they do take your photo down, remember that anyone who asks for that photo does have the right to see it.
The good news is that public records don’t always have amazing SEO. Your social media pages, professional websites, and other internet accounts are far more likely to pop up when someone Googles your name. If you can get your mugshot off of various mugshot websites, it’s relatively easy to bury your criminal records in other (more favorable) information about you.