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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Virginia SB720 Arrest Photos on Internet; Civil Penalty from Monetary Requirement to Remove Posting Becomes Law But What About Websites Like Gotcha! (Owned by Richmond Times Dispatch) that Post Mug Shots Immediately After an Arrest and Before a Finding of Guilt Occurs?

 
SB720 has been signed into law by Governor McAuliffe 

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:  

That the Code of Virginia is amended by adding a section numbered 8.01-40.3 as follows:

§ 8.01-40.3. Unauthorized dissemination, etc., of criminal history record information; civil action. 

Any person who disseminates, publishes, or maintains or causes to be disseminated, published, or maintained the criminal history record information as defined in § 9.1-101 of an individual pertaining to that individual's charge or arrest for a criminal offense and solicits, requests, or accepts money or other thing of value for removing such criminal history record information shall be liable to the individual who is the subject of the information for actual damages or $500, whichever is greater, in addition to reasonable attorney fees and costs. 

This is good news….. but what about publications like Gotcha!? 

Gotcha! was founded in February 2010. It prints the mug shots of not just convicted people but of arrested people who may have charges dropped down the line or who may be found….. not guilty. 

Gotcha! might NOT be “black-mailing” the people they list to be removed from the Internet (as SB720 specifies) but the damage Gotcha! creates because co-workers, employers, landlords, neighbors, parishioners and acquaintances see the mug-shot can never be captured.   
 

Gotcha! is 100% trash.  

It profits from the misery and humiliation of others all under the guise of their arrest record and photo is public information. Here is their disclaimer: Gotcha! has three primary objectives: to provide information to the public about suspected criminal activity in the area; to aid law enforcement in the determent of crime and the solving of cases; and to raise the overall safety consciousness of the public. 

Yeah, right! 

Not only do convenient stores carry this trash but the Richmond Times Dispatch links to / is the Gotcha! Website because it turns out Gotcha! is a publication of Richmond Media Group. According to Gotcha! Facebook page they were the First-Place Winner of the Virginia Press Association publication Award in 2011. 

Really??????????  

An award from the Virginia Press for a magazine/website whose ONLY contribution is to publicize the mug-shots of citizens of Virginia. 

The people in these arrest photos have spouses, children and loved ones. They might be the only employed person in their household and the placement in such a magazine or on the Internet very likely will result in their termination or even eviction while they are attempting to defend themselves against the charge(s). 

Gotcha! is NOT Crime Solvers or Crime Stoppers, they are NOT providing a service to our State. They are vultures feeding of the carcasses of those who are already facing a very bleak future. Gotcha! just regurgitates new articles and public alerts from other media and law-enforcement outlets in an attempt to legitimize their existence. 

If it is not a police, sheriff or law-enforcement organization the mug-shot of a citizen who has not been convicted that is not part of an actual news story and that isn’t ‘wanted’ then the details of an arrest should NOT legally be allowed to be posted on-line or printed in a publication.  

Virginia Delegates and Senators need to consider our Rule of Law of innocent until proven guilty and how having a mug-shot all over the Internet and in a magazine at the convenient store where you fill up your gas tank every week or your family members are buying milk from can destroy their chances of maintaining their current standard of living while they are attempting to maneuver their way thorough Virginia’s legal system. 

Contact your State Delegate and Senator and ask them to consider a law that would prevent websites like Gotcha! from posting and printing random mug shots of people who haven’t even been convicted of a crime. 

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The Commonwealth should be treating its citizens better than this! 

Mary