Sunshine Law spreads Evil Darkness
If you were arrested in Florida your mug shot will live on forever on the Internet. Unless you’re a Florida police officer, in which case, you can fill out a form to keep your mug shot out of the public record and off extortion sites like florida.arrests.org.
Florida prides itself on a history of transparent government and open pubic records – just ask their press officers. This commitment to open public records is codified in Chapter 119, Section 1 of the Florida Statutes. The law requires that government bodies at the municipal, county and state levels provide access to view and copy public records they create.
Florida’s laws thrill the civil libertarian in me; it seems right and just that a citizen should be able to easily discover what government officials are doing. Without such access, there is a very real question whether there can be any meaningful accountability for government actions. But if accountability is the purpose of the law then how can it be that police officers – government officials with the power to investigate and arrest citizens – are exempt from having their mug shots made public?
The same part of me that is thrilled by robust access laws is appalled that this law can be used to create websites like florida.arrests.org, which publishes the mug shots of individuals and then refuses to remove them unless paid. If the mug shots of all arrestees were available that would be one thing, but they aren’t. Only the mug shots of people who don’t want to pay to have them removed or who are too poor to pay to have their mug shots removed or who are government officials can escape the endless embarrassment of having a mug shot on file.
It looks like there is a chance that the Attorney General of Florida can get rid of the mug shot exemption for police officers. If that happens the law still won’t be perfect (it won’t stop exploitation sites) but at least it will support the spirit of an open and transparent government in Florida.