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Some websites make people pay to get mugshots off the internet. NC House votes to change that.

State lawmakers want to crack down on websites that publish mugshots and make people pay to have their photos removed.

House Bill 778 stems from concerns that people who are arrested will have their mugshots posted online for years — even if the charge was dismissed, or they were found not guilty. That can make it hard to get a job or a lease if Google searches turn up a person’s mugshot.

Rep. Joe John, D-Wake, is the bill’s sponsor. The legislation passed the House unanimously.

“The individual cannot get the private company which has posted or published his or her booking photo or mug shot to remove that photo without the payment of an exorbitant fee — usually in amount of $3,000 or $4,000,” John said.

John’s bill would force the websites to remove the mugshot for free if the person pictured submits a written request. That request would need to show that the arrest didn’t result in a conviction.

Websites that ignore a request could be fined $100 per day, and they could face lawsuits for violating the law. Law enforcement agencies would be banned from directly providing mugshots to the websites, but they could still post the photos on their own agency websites.

The legislation now goes to the Senate. It was a rare victory for House Democrats who sponsored the bill — most bills passed during last week’s busy “crossover” deadline sessions were filed by Republicans.

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