When someone gets arrested, one of their primary concerns may be how the arrest will affect their reputation. Given the easy access to information on the internet, an arrest can impact a person’s life, job prospects, housing options, and educational opportunities. If you’ve been arrested for or convicted of a crime, you need to understand how to manage your online reputation.
What Is Your Online Reputation?
Stop what you’re doing right now and go to Google.com. Type in your name and press enter. What do you find? If you have a common name, you may not find much that is specific to you. But just adding in a middle name, date of birth, or city of residence can turn up plenty of private information about you.
In general, if information isn’t protected by a privacy law and the information is true, that information will likely be protected by the First Amendment. And for things contained within local or state government records, much of that is considered “public” and can be published online.
What happens in the criminal legal system is fair game to be published online. Because courts are open to the public, a reporter can publish about what they heard. In years past, police departments even shared mugshots and gave details about an arrest.
In 2019, New York changed the Public Officers Law to state that it is an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy for law enforcement to share mugshots. The ban was put into effect to stop websites that post mugshots and demand payment to remove them. However, police are still authorized to share a mugshot if “public release of such photographs will serve a specific law enforcement purpose.”
How to Manage Your Online Reputation
Hiring a competent lawyer to handle your criminal case may be one of the most effective ways of handling your reputation. If your case ends favorably, you will be better equipped to defend yourself.
Additionally, speak with your attorney about possibly getting your record sealed. While this isn’t available in every case, it is worth inquiring about. In other states, there may even be ways to expunge your case after a period of time (New York does not have expungement).
If you use social media, it is also advisable to check your privacy settings. If and when a story is published about you, people may try to contact you (and sometimes harass you). They could also publish private information about you or your family that you share on social media. Importantly, don’t post anything yourself about your arrest online!
If your arrest was published online, you may try to contact the owner of that website and see if they would remove the information. Providing them with additional information – particularly if the charge was downgraded or dismissed – may help your case. Alternatively, they may be willing to add a post-script to the story or publish a correction.
You can also try to create “good news” about yourself. One way to do this is to hire a reputation management company to help how you appear online. Simply put, they push negative content down in the search results and work to have positive information appear higher on the search engine’s page ranking.
- Public Officers Law § 89, General provisions relating to access to records; certain cases. Available at: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/PBO/89 (last accessed Mar. 14, 2023).
- NYS Open Government, What You Should Know – NYS Personal Privacy Protection Law (PPPL), Available at: https://opengovernment.ny.gov/what-you-should-know-nys-personal-privacy-protection-law-pppl (last accessed Mar. 14, 2023).
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