If you have recently been arrested, charged with a DUI, or had a run-in with the police, chances are your name has been featured on a police blotter. Unfortunately, police blotter records do not always tell the full story and may mislead the public. Unless you take action, your name or personal information may still be featured on a police blotter even if charges are later dismissed.
By taking the following steps, you may be able to get your name and arrest information removed from a police blotter:
- Request a copy of your full police report,
- Obtain copies of the docket and journal entries from your criminal case,
- Explore whether your arrest record can be expunged or sealed, and
- Submit expungement orders to websites to get expunged or sealed records removed.
At Minc Law, we have helped more than 2,500 clients remove over 50,000 pieces of unwanted online content. We know what it takes to get negative and unflattering online content removed. We also help clients bolster and protect their online reputation, so they are not defined solely by what internet search results say about them.
In this post, we will discuss what a police blotter is and how to get mugshots and police records removed from the internet. We will also briefly discuss ways to expunge or seal past court records that could be damaging your reputation.
What is a Police Blotter? Is a Police Blotter the Same as a Mugshot Site?
A police blotter is a listing of arrests within a certain jurisdiction. Each police department records arrests as they happen.
Typically, police blotter records include the name, age, and address of the suspect in a particular crime. If the suspect is arrested, the blotter will include the time and location of the crime, the name of the arresting law enforcement officer, and a brief description of the events that transpired.
For better or worse, anyone can access police blotters. They are public records – and local news media often publish notable crimes and arrests. Unfortunately, the brief description of events included in a blotter may not accurately depict what happened. News media, in particular, may have to trim a police report to fit a small space, so the information shared may be misleading.
Another issue with police blotters is that they are rarely updated. For instance, if charges are dropped or reduced after your arrest, the blotter may not reflect the changes. This can be especially damaging to a person’s reputation because an old arrest (that never amounted to a conviction) may still appear in search results under their name.
Mugshot websites, on the other hand, are not affiliated with police departments. These websites typically pull mugshots after an arrest and are designed primarily to shame those arrested. Many mugshot websites force individuals to jump through hoops to get their mugshot removed from their site.
Are Police Blotters Legal?
Police records can be made accessible to the public, legally. In fact, federal and state freedom of information laws mandate police departments to keep a record of daily activities.
These records are also open to public inspection. In a word, police blotters are not only legal – they are mandated by law.
Is a Police Blotter a Public Document?
Police blotters are public documents. However, police agencies have the authority to withhold certain portions of their records when necessary to prevent interference with law enforcement. Birmingham News Co. v. Watkins, No. 38389 (Cir. Ct. of Jefferson County, Ala., Oct. 30, 1974).
Also, the public has the right to access, browse, and reproduce police blotter records because they are public documents.
Is a Police Blotter the Same as a Mugshot Site?
Police blotters are live reports from police departments that are typically published in a newspaper. Mugshot sites, like Mugshots.com or Arrest.com, publish databases of public arrest records for entertainment purposes.
It may be easier to remove unflattering content from mugshot sites because they will typically remove a mugshot (also known as a booking photo) as long as you provide documentation that the criminal charge was expunged or sealed and submit an administration fee.
Police blotters, on the other hand, are similar to news articles so they are more difficult to remove. News content is afforded ample protection because it is considered a matter of public concern.
How Do I Remove My Arrest Information From a Police Blotter?
If you find yourself featured in a police blotter, there are steps you can take to get the information removed. If you need to get an arrest record removed to preserve your reputation, take the following steps:
- Request a copy of your police report,
- Request the journal entry from your court case, and
- Consider getting your record expunged or sealed.
Request a Copy of the Police Report
Start by requesting a copy of your full police report. If your case is still ongoing or under investigation, you may not be able to obtain a copy of the report until the case is closed. If the matter is resolved, you can request a copy of the report by visiting the police department where the arrest took place.
As long as you were a direct party to the incident (either the individual arrested or a victim) you should be able to obtain a copy of your report within a few days to a week.
It is important to obtain the police report to see if the actual report matches the information cited in the police blotter.
For instance, a police blotter might cite an arrest for domestic violence while the police report lists disorderly conduct as the reason for the arrest. If the report and blotter do not match, you may only have to notify publishers that their blotter information was incorrect for them to correct their records.
Request the Docket or Journal Entries From Your Court Case
The journal entries from your court case will show the disposition of your case (whether charges were dismissed, reduced, or otherwise resolved). It is also referred to as your case docket.
To obtain a copy of the journal entries comprising your case, simply visit the clerk of the court where your case was heard (the city, district, or county where the arrest occurred) and request a copy.
This information is also available online in some jurisdictions and you can typically request formal copies by mail.
Explore Having Your Arrest Expunged or Sealed
First, see the rules regarding expungement and sealing in your state. These can be found at the ‘Restoration of Rights Project’s 50 State Comparison’.
If your case qualifies for expungement or sealing, it is recommended you proceed with expungement or sealing because each outcome can increase your chances of getting police blotter content removed. Each state has different rules regarding expungement – a process by which criminal files are removed from the public record.
While you should check your local rules to see if you qualify for expungement, most states permit expungement of charges that were dismissed or did not result in a conviction.
Alternatively, some records can be sealed, which simply removes them from public access. Anyone that wants to view a sealed record will need a court order. Often, juvenile records are automatically sealed once an individual turns 18 (or 21 in some states) and cannot be viewed without a court order. However, this is not always the case and may vary from state to state.
Even if you obtain an expungement, you may need to follow up to ensure all records are removed. For instance, some mugshot sites may still show your arrest record. Fortunately, many of these sites will accept proof of expungement or sealing to remove content from their website.
Steps to Have Your Arrest Expunged or Sealed
Before getting records expunged or sealed, you will need to file a motion with the appropriate court. You can increase your chances of getting your records sealed or expunged by limiting the scope of your request to only what is necessary to obtain the result you are seeking. Instead of requesting the sealing of an entire court record, you might just ask for a certain damaging portion of the record to be sealed.
For instance, if you were involved in a case regarding disability discrimination, you may just want your medical records to be sealed from public view instead of the entire court record. As part of any request, you can always request language that references the case be removed from online websites.
For a more detailed look at expungement and sealing, read our article, “How to Remove Court Records From the Internet.” In that post, attorney Brinton Resto explains how to use expungement and sealing as a tool to get online court records removed to restore your reputation.
What is the Difference Between Expungement & Sealing Your Record?
The key difference between expungement and sealing is whether or not the arrest record still exists. By sealing a record, it still physically exists, however, it is removed or hidden from public view.
When a record is expunged, on the other hand, the arrest record and/or charges are completely deleted (as if the arrest never occurred).
Are You Eligible For an Expungement or Having Your Criminal Record Sealed?
Like most legal issues, the answer depends on where the arrest occurred. Each state has its own guidelines an individual must meet before a record can be expunged or sealed. Some states do not allow you to expunge a complete record at all.
Serious felonies are rarely eligible for expungement or sealing. Yet, some states allow minor infractions and misdemeanors to be expunged. The expungement criteria required by most states include:
- Absence of any additional criminal history since the end of the case you want expunged,
- Passage of a minimal period of time since the case concluded,
- No convictions for disqualifying offenses (like a serious felony),
- Completion of all terms of probation, parole, or the applicable sentence (if any), and
- Lack of an extensive criminal record history.
The best thing to do is research the qualifying elements for your state. Some states require that you wait a certain amount of time before you apply for expungement or sealing of court records.
Ohio Expungement Time Frame
In Ohio, for example, you must wait one year after your case has been closed to apply for expungement of a misdemeanor.
For felony charges, you must wait at least 3-5 years before you can petition the court for expungement (depending on the number of convictions).
New York Expungement Time Frame
In New York, individuals must wait 10 years from the imposition of a sentence or their release from incarceration before they can apply for sealing.
Also, New York will not seal records of sex offenses or violent felonies.
Illinois Expungement Time Frame
Illinois is known for broader record sealing and expungement relief. Most misdemeanor and felony convictions can be sealed as long as the individual petitions the court 3 years after their last sentence. Those who earn a diploma, degree, or career certificate during their sentence can bypass the waiting period.
What Are the First Steps to Take to Have Your Criminal Record Sealed or Expunged?
Once you have finished researching your state’s requirements you will now want to begin the process of sealing or expungement.
To find the necessary documents check out the Court’s website since many courts list expungement or sealing requirements on their website and most even provide a packet of documents that you can easily complete yourself.
Make sure that you file your motion in the correct court! You will want to file your motion in the same court where your original case was heard.
Check out this expungement application packet from Cuyahoga County to see how they provide easy-to-follow, DIY, instructions.
Reasons Your Mugshot May Still Be Online Once Your Matter is Expunged or Sealed
If a mugshot website still shows information about your arrest after you have had the matter sealed or expunged, there are some relatively simple steps to get it removed.
How Long Can Your Mugshot Stay Online?
Mugshots can stay online forever unless you take steps to get them removed.
Some states actually have laws that require mugshot websites to remove your photo upon request – often within a specified period of time like 30 days.
Why is My Mugshot Still Online?
Even after you go through the steps of getting your arrest expunged or sealed your mugshot may still be viewable online. This is because mugshot websites are independently managed completely outside of regular law enforcement and judicial proceedings.
The Website May Not Be Aware of the Expungement
Even though the court and police department may expunge or seal your records, independent websites may not be aware of the expungement.
The Website May Argue the Arrest is Truthful & Newsworthy
While some websites cooperate with individuals who can provide proof of expungement or sealing, others can be trickier to navigate.
Technically, arrests are public knowledge and based on truth, even if the charges are later dismissed or nothing came of the arrest. Some sites may try to argue that the former arrest is still truthful and newsworthy.
The Website Requires an Administrative Fee or Paperwork to Process the Removal
If you are struggling with a website that refuses to remove your mugshot, you may need to hire someone to assist with removal. Some websites will eventually remove mugshots if they are provided an administrative fee and proof of either expungement or sealing.
Depending on which site you are dealing with, you may need to submit extensive paperwork for the site to even consider removal.
Your Mugshot is Posted Across Multiple Websites
It is also worth noting that you need to conduct a thorough search to find every site sharing your mugshots. Getting a record sealed or expunged is only the first step, from there, you need to find all the sites that continue to display your arrest information and approach each of them.
The best way to determine which sites are showing your arrest information or mugshots is to Google yourself.
Try the following searches to discover the results that may harm your reputation:
- Your name + arrest (e.g., “John Doe arrest”);
- Your name + mugshot (e.g., “John Doe mugshot”);
- Your name + location of arrest (e.g., “John Doe Ohio”).
Do Mugshots Ever Go Away?
If you get the court record related to the mugshot sealed or expunged it is not legal for the information to remain publicly accessible.
As we mentioned above, though, some websites may not be aware that a particular record has been sealed or expunged. You will likely need to contact them with the appropriate documentation to show why your mugshot should be removed.
How to Remove Your Mugshot & Arrest Records From the Internet & Repair Your Reputation
Websites like Mugshots.com and Rapsheets.org are popping up day by day. They exist to share mugshots and blotter information gleaned from public police records throughout the United States.
If you are dealing with an arrest and the reputational damage that occurs when your name is featured in a police blotter, you might feel overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated. The best thing to do is remain calm and know that you may be able to get the negative content removed and restore your reputation.
Keep the following steps in mind to restore your online reputation:
Get Your Arrest Expunged or Sealed
As mentioned above, begin by researching if your arrest can be expunged. If it can be expunged or sealed, begin the process as soon as you are eligible, do not wait (because it will improve your chances of removing the negative content).
Identify All Websites That Display Your Mugshot
Search your name and find all the sites displaying your mugshot or arrest record.
Review Website Content Removal Policies
Review the removal policies of all sites featuring your mugshot or arrest record.
For example, bustednewspaper.com has a form on their website you can use if you have proof of expungement, sealing, or a nolle prosequi (dismissal of charges).
Reach Out to the Site to Request Removal
Reach out (either on your own or with the assistance of an attorney) to the sites to see if they would consider removal.
Utilize Online Reputation Management Services & Strategies
Consider other online reputation management (ORM) strategies if you do not have the paperwork websites require for removal.
Online reputation management refers to a set of marketing, public relations, and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies and tools to improve an individual or business’s online reputation.
For further reading, make sure to check out our comprehensive article by paralegal Kaelynn Vargo explaining estimated online reputation management costs.
Speak With an Experienced Internet Attorney
If you are still struggling with mugshots, arrest records, or other unwanted online content, speak with an experienced internet attorney or professional to discuss all of your options.
Create Positive Online Content to Suppress Negative Results
If you have been arrested, you can still protect your online reputation by bolstering your digital footprint. While mugshots and arrest records tend to rank high in search results, you can create other, positive content to steer the focus away from past mistakes.
For instance, you can take advantage of social media accounts to promote your professional skills and show the image you wish to convey. You might also create your own website to showcase your portfolio or resume so that your own curated content is what searchers find first online.
Minc Law Can Help Remove Mugshots & Public Court Records From the Internet
Facing unwanted online content in the aftermath of an arrest or conviction can be demoralizing. Fortunately, there are things you can do to remove court records from the internet and repair your reputation.
At Minc Law, we have helped clients remove over 50,000 pieces of unwanted online content, including mugshots, court records, and unflattering news articles and write-ups.
“Darcy is very responsive and goes above and beyond to get the goal done to remove the defamation link. She is very knowledgeable about the case and very helpful. Thank you, Darcy!”
FB, Oct 29, 2020
We also help individuals protect and restore their online reputation using an arsenal of tools including our Digital Risk Protection platform – which monitors, identifies, and eliminates digital threats. If you are facing negative online content, we can help.
Reach out to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation by calling us at (216) 373-7706, speaking with a Chat representative, or filling out our confidential online contact form.