In the course of handling a lawsuit against an underage driver who was charged with DUI for civil damages stemming from a bad injury, we Googled the Defendant and one of the top hits was his more recent arrest for Minor in Possession. www.Arrestcentral.com and www.Bustedmugshots.com are two examples of sites that cull readily available arrest information and make it very Google friendly.
This can become a huge problem for you, especially if you have a unique name. If you have a common name, a search on you are your city of residence is likely to return hundreds of responses. But, if you are uniquely named and have an arrest record that has been scraped, odds are that a prospective boss or nosey parent will locate the information.
Can they publish that information? Don’t I have privacy rights?
Yes, they can publish any true public information. Yes you have privacy rights, but an arrest record is public and your privacy rights are trumped by the First Amendment rights of the publisher. The same holds true for a newspaper reporting your arrest. So long as they don’t cross the line and say that you are guilty, as they did in the Richard Jewell (Olympic Park Bombing Suspect) case.
So what can I do about it? You can reach out to the publisher and ask that they remove the listing; in fact www.arrestcentral.com has a “delist me” button. Seems like an easy solution right? Unfortunately when you click on it you realize that the website wants $100.00 to take down the page showing your arrest. It feels like extortion right?
You are in a tough situation; it is a true fact that you were arrested, so no libel issues probably. It is currently perfectly legal to post the information. The reason that www.arrestcentral.com only lists Lawrenceville and Atlanta is that those are the only cities that publicly post the arrest information. All the website is doing is scraping the data and photos from those sites. So, what is an arrestee to do? You are innocent until proven guilty right?
So if we decide that information is good, but we don’t like being extorted for money, we are left in an uncomfortable position as a society. Would a piece of legislation banning profiteering from public arrest records withstand constitutional scrutiny? I doubt it; you are dangerously close to infringing on the First Amendment. Could you require licensure? Maybe.
My best recommendation to the public is to bury your name in other innocent Google search results. Remember the more distinctive your name, the more likely your arrest record is to show up.
So, here is the plan:
1) Sign up for a free blogger.com account, with your name as the domain, and your name appearing in every single post. Write about anything that interests you, fishing, hunting, bullfights on acid, whatever. Google will eventually recognize that the blog is the strongest signal for your name.
2) then get cheap websites from Godaddy or from Yahoo and put up a few websites about you. They can be dull and silly but so long as they contain your name a few times, they will take up a space in the organic Google search results.
3) Sign up for Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and any other social media account with your name as the title, spelled just like it is in the arrest record. I don’t care if you never post to these pages and put up little content, each page will take up another space.
Remember there are around 10 slots on the first page of Google, so you want each slot filled with an innocent page about you on a different domain, controlled by you. The idea here is that right now the only web site shouting your name is the one where you were arrested. Let’s change that and get 10 people saying positive things about you, even if they are all your proxies.
If that won’t work, then hire an online identity protection firm to bury the negative posting behind hundreds of spammy hits. Online reputation management is a burgeoning industry and these players are only to happy to step in and help a brother out; for a small fee, of course. I would rather have you pay a third party that will save your reputation from every online arrest lister than pay off the extortionists one by one.
Anyway you slice it, you can be guilty until not listed by Google on page one anymore! There are wonderful things about the information age, but online arrest records are certainly one of the downsides here in Georgia and under our laws, there is very little that can be done about it.