Now that the courts have sealed or expunged your criminal records, your employment prospects and other opportunities should have improved immensely. But commercial online websites may have already harvested mugshots and arrest records, exposing what should have remained sealed or expunged. Sure, your record will no longer appear in a criminal records background check for employment or housing. But what about that mug shot the police took, when it somehow appears online?
Commercial companies scouring the internet for mug shots and arrest reports from law enforcement and courts to sell online must avoid defaming your character or invading your privacy by publicly disclosing private facts or placing you in a false light. If the courts sealed or expunged your arrest or conviction records, but those sealed or expunged records are now appearing online, then get expert attorney help. Retain attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm now before you lose the job or other opportunity that you deserve. Don't let sealed or expunged history spoil good prospects. Get attorney help.
A “False Light” Invasion of Privacy
Here is an instructive case in point, proving that courts and others shouldn't be publishing sealed or expunged criminal records to your detriment. Daryoush Taha insists he was innocent of the charges of harassment, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest for which authorities jailed him overnight in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, in 1998. According to a January 11th report in Courthouse News Service, the court expunged his record when he completed his Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition not long after his arrest. He thus should have avoided the damage to his personal and professional reputation that a criminal record would have caused.
In 2011, though, Taha discovered online that the Bucks County Correctional Facility (BCCF) had released his booking mugshot and arrest record to commercial mugshot websites. In doing so, BCCF clearly violated the court-ordered expungement and Pennsylvania's Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA). Websites like mugshots.com that publish sealed and expunged criminal records can be liable for invading privacy and presenting the person in a “false light” damaging to career and reputation.
Taha sued. Bucks County moved to dismiss, but U.S. District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo denied the county's motion. Judge Restrepo further ruled that Bucks County and the jail did not have governmental immunity against Taha's civil liability action.
Federal Class Action
Realizing that BCCF had published online thousands of mugshots and arrest records of people whose cases had been sealed or expunged, Taha then sued to make his case a class action. Despite county appeals, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, ruled in favor of Taha et al., declaring that Taha v. Bucks could proceed as a class action. Subsequently, a jury awarded $1,000 to each of 67,000 ex-offenders going back to 1938 whose BCCF records were published in violation of CHRIA. The county is currently appealing that $67 million judgment, according to the report.
Taha also sued mugshots.com for posting the sealed criminal records online. In February 2021, the U.S. District Court for Pennsylvania's Eastern District awarded Taha $150,000 in damages against mugshots.com. The court also ordered the records removed and enjoined mugshots.com and any related party from any further posting of the records online. You can take effective action to enforce court orders sealing or expunging your criminal records, both against government wrongdoers and commercial entities.
Turn Out the “False Light”
It is perfectly legal and honest to say you have no criminal history on a job application. However, if a prospective employer Googles you and finds your mugshot, you could end up looking “like a liar and a criminal,” said Sarah Lageson, an assistant professor at Rutgers University's Newark School of Criminal Justice, unless you've taken prompt action to enforce your rights to seal or expunge your record.
If you know or suspect unlawful exposure of your sealed or expunged criminal record, you should seek expert advice from Joseph D. Lento, experienced criminal defense attorney at the Lento Law Firm. Don't let commercial services or others skirt court orders protecting you and your privacy rights. Call 888-535-3686 today.