Having an old mug shot floating around on the Internet is a recurring embarrassment, especially if the state dismissed the charge or it was adjudicated as not guilty. All it takes is one misunderstanding to suffer the Google consequences forever; prospective employers entering a name into a search engine immediately see the most embarrassing, disheveled, criminal looking photograph and immediately take that name off of the candidate list.
To make matters worse, the web sites that post on-line mug shots often charge a fee ($150-$400) to remove a photo and there is no guarantee that another web site under a different name will not re-post the same photo. Some of the web sites are licensed to reproduce photographs from government agencies and some are not.
Most of the sites state that they will delete a photo if there is proof that the charge was dismissed, or proof the charge was expunged. Some will even delete misdemeanor arrest photos. Proof of dismissal is fairly straightforward: The NC state AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts) database will show the disposition of a particular case and can be accessed by the public from the Criminal Clerk of Court’s Office in most North Carolina courthouses. Look up the charge either by name or by item number, the clerk may help with this (or may not).
When the correct screen is displayed, if the charge has been dismissed the letters DV, DC, or DD will appear on the left side of the screen about midway down under “PLEA VER MOD”, and the disposition date will be on the right side of the screen. Get a printout of this from the clerk and send a copy with an explanation to the internet company holding the photo hostage.
If the arrest record was expunged, the process is a little trickier: “Contact the web site to determine which government agency was the source of the information, then contact that government agency to determine whether or not the expunction order was received. If the web site claims the state AOC was the source of the information, contact the AOC’s Remote Public Access Office at [email protected] or (919)890-2220.” If this is a dead end, an application has to be sent to the NC Administrative Office of the Courts (901 Corporate Center Drive, Raleigh, NC 27607-5045.) requesting a certificate verifying that the person is the subject of a record that has been expunged. The applicant must include a sworn affidavit stating that the applicant is the object of the record in question and identifying the specific case expunged.
Once the proof of expunction is obtained, submit it to the web site. There is a law in North Carolina that may be used to force the web site to remove the photo associated with the expunged crime: NCGS 15A-152, makes the site liable for damages that result after receiving proper notice to remove the record. The best bet is to be civil when contacting the web site, they have a solid argument that they are disseminating public information, and in reality they are providing a service that a lot of us can appreciate. The sites are unlikely to remove the arrest records of convicted felons unless the conviction was expunged (see my post about felony expunction in North Carolina for criteria).