Simple in concept but, like most things, the devil is in the details. How will we as an evolving society continue to embrace this simple concept? Under this basic principle, being arrested is decidedly not the same as being guilty.
Once upon a time I, yours truly, was arrested by the police. I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you that story. It’s a harrowing tale of poop, felis catus, neighborly love, and C.S.I. And just like most episodes of C.S.I. the identities of the guilty will be revealed in time for the credits.
I imagine the whole thing looked a lot like George Clooney being handcuffed and taken into custody. Yeah, exactly the same.
I was 18 at the time. My dad and his wench ‘o the day were not around. I was home alone. I had a pet kitty at the time, I no longer remember his name, but we were close. Very close. Each night he’d sleep with me in my bed. Well, not exactly in the bed. He’d curl right up on my face.
He was an indoor/outdoor cat and, as cats are often wont to do, would roam hither and yon as he saw fit.
There is no leash law for cats because they are considered free-roaming animals. However, a property owner does have the legal right to humanely trap or catch any nuisance cats on their property.
We lived next to the neighbor from Hell. He hated my dad, would yell vile profanities at my dad’s woman when she stepped outside, and, when he found my cat’s … deposits … on his property, he would fling them at our house so hard they would stick. We’d often find cat doodoo stuck to the walls of our house.
The dude was also a professional furniture mover and buff as hell. He was about as bright as Forrest Gump. A huge son of a bitch that everyone called “Junior.” Not the sort of character one normally trifles with.
At one point, he even pointed a loaded gun at my dad. I’m talking about a serious Class A asshole here.
Judging by the poop stuck to our walls he was obviously furious about my sweet little kitty doing his business on his property. Like most cat friends, I had little influence over how and where the cat chose to perform his duties. The part I never understood, though, was being so upset about it that he was willing to pick it up. Ha ha ha ha! Idiot.
So one day I came home and couldn’t find my kitty. I looked everywhere. Finally, after searching outside, I located the source of some pathetic mewling and it was coming from the neighbor’s side of the fence! I looked over and saw a live animal trap with my kitty inside.
Without a moment’s hesitation I vaulted the fence ala Bionic Man and landed on the other side. I was in Hulk mode. You would not like me when I am angry. I freed my kitty and pointed him back home. Then, without thinking, I grabbed that fucking trap and took it with me. I threw it in the trunk of my car fully intending to dispose of it later.
Not long after came a knock at the door. It was the police!
“May we come in?”
“Certainly,” I replied. I’ve always loved law enforcement. They are the last line of defense against the assholiest of our society.
They told me they were investigating the strange case of The Disappearing Animal Trap and wanted to ask me a few questions. Sure thing, no problem.
Did I have any information about a missing animal trap from the neighbor’s yard? I pondered this and opted for the appropriate COPS response. I lied out my ass.
They stroked their chins for a few moments and then released their secret weapon. They gestured at my sneakers a few feet away on the floor.
“Are those your shoes?”
“They are an exact match for footprints left at the scene.”
Dammit. They got me with their fancy C.S.I. technologies! And yet, I still lied.
“Listen,” they said. “All we want is the return of the animal trap. It’s city property that your neighbor had rented. Give us the trap and we’ll be on our way. Otherwise we’ll have no choice but to take you downtown and arrest you for real.”
Well? What was I supposed to do? I crumbled like a butter-infused Oreo cookie pie crust on a Deep Fried Twinkie Pie made by Paula Deen. I led the police to the scene of the stolen property which they took into custody. Then they read me my rights and told me I had been “arrested.”
They didn’t yell at me to “get down, face down, on the ground!” They did not frisk me. They didn’t ask if I had in my possession anything that might stick them. They didn’t ask if I had any weapons, knives or guns. I was not handcuffed. I had been arrested for trespassing and theft of city property. No mugshot was taken. No fingerprints were obtained. No DNA was forcibly extracted. There wasn’t even a cavity search. Case closed.
Later that night my dad would read me the riot act for giving into the Po-Po so easily. “You should have continued to lie,” he advised. “Man, what a wimp I raised.” Dad didn’t like the Po-Po. It wouldn’t be the last time I let him down.
The police were friendly and seemed sympathetic to my plight. They explained it would be up to the District Attorney if the case would move forward or not. But that never happened and I never heard about the incident again. Not even a letter. Thus my criminal history remains squeaky clean and I’ve never been arrested again.
I was innocent until proven guilty. That proving of guilt, in the form of a conviction, never happened. Therefore my record remains innocent. As pure driven snow.
What happens to those not so lucky? Those who actually got taken downtown and photographed and had their mugshots released into the public domain under the name of freedom of speech?
It turns out that a lot of them never reach that proven guilty phase. Ever. Perhaps, like in my case, the D.A. never pressed charges. That’s a decision that happens after the arrest and the booking photos have already taken place. Or maybe the case goes to trial and they are found innocent. Either way, those mugshot photos and arrest records still exist. They persist even without a conviction and proof of guilt.
Cue the mugshot documentation industry (MDI) to the rescue. These are the folks who are even lower than the viscous scum that naturally forms in the armpits of maggots.
The purveyors of these scurrilous websites claim to be motivated by “public interest,” yet are somehow inconceivably willing to abscond on that civic duty in exchange for
extortion fees. Yes, in exchange for money, these mugshot websites will remove photos upon request. Guilt or innocence, apparently, is not a factor. Just cold hard cash. Either way, just fork over the cash and they’ll pull the public information they stole from their websites.
Who profits? That’s hard to say. Ownership of these websites can be hard to trace, but just like porn and gambling, the trail may lead away from the United States, even if the eventual recipients of the funds end up being American citizens. The ownership is further clouded by shell corporations and LLC organizations, all designed to obfuscate and obscure true ownership. Gee, why should true heroes go to such lengths to hide under a rock like potato bugs?
One such company was kind of traced back with a trail that led to Belize but even then it’s still unclear. Do you know where Belize is? I know I certainly couldn’t fucking find it on a map.
The sites laughably state that all persons are “innocent until proven guilty.” Wink, wink. Hilarious. Worse, they claim their services are offered for “entertainment” purposes only.
“Hey, honey. What do you want to do tonight? Opera? Ballet? Catch a flick or attend a sporting event? Fine dining?”
“Goddammit, no way! I’d rather stay home and surf the mugshot websites. Again. Can’t get enough. Now that’s entertainment!”
“I was hoping you’d say that. I already got the beer and popcorn. Now let’s go watch some mugshots!”
Calling the service “entertainment” should be enough to jail the site owners for all time. What an insult to our intelligence.
Naturally the sites charge fees. This is their bread and butter. The fees sites charge for removal of photos range from $80 to $399 each and sometimes over $1,000. They call this service “unpublishing.” And the fee only works on a single website. You’ll have to repay the fee for every website where the photo might exist. And I’m sure none of them are operated by the same people, right? No doubt this is a highly ethical and well regulated industry. Excuse me, I just mugshotted in my pants.
There are tons of these mugshot shots. It’s one of the fastest growing cottage industries of all time.
Recently one case came to light about a man who was arrested seven years ago. His experience in job hunting was meeting enthusiastic employers who would suddenly turn cold. It happened again and again. Finally he discovered that his mugshot and information about his arrest were readily available on mugshot websites and easily found with a cursory internet search. He was arrested for burglarizing an apartment where he had recently lived and the prosecutor decided to drop the case. He was never found guilty and never convicted of a crime. As we all know, that’s means he’s innocent.
Now, seven years later, it’s dramatically impacting his ability to obtain employment. Thanks to the mugshot publishing industry. That sure seems like a fair punishment for someone never found guilty of any crime.
Do the police ever arrest the wrong person? You betcha! Now those innocent folks will have to pay umpteen websites ridiculous fees in a vain attempt to clear their name and cached information that will never truly go away.
The obvious solution is to regulate with common sense legislation the sleezeball scumbags who run these websites and scavenge off the carcass of public information and offer nothing in return. This is the true definition of a “leech.” There must be a law, at the federal level, that requires mugshot websites to remove data in cases where persons were never found guilty and a system in place to expedite the process and protect the innocent.
In the meantime, I’d love to see someone come forward, perhaps someone like Larry Flynt, willing to offer up enough reward money to expose these cockroaches to the light of day. They must be stopped. I wonder how much they would like their personal information published for all to see and outside of their control? Since they hate the light of day so much I don’t think they’d take very kindly to it.
That makes it a moral imperative.