Ohio looks to crack down on people who extort money to remove mugshots

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Ohio looks to crack down on people who extort money to remove mugshots

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The Ohio House on Wednesday voted 88-4 in favor of House Bill 6, which would make it a minor misdemeanor to solicit or accept fees for taking down or correcting criminal records information or mugshots that have been published online or in print. Violators could also be open to lawsuits.

Ohio lawmakers are moving to stop companies that publish jail mugshots and then charge a fee to remove them.

The Ohio House on Wednesday voted 88-4 in favor of House Bill 6, which would make it a minor misdemeanor to solicit or accept fees for taking down or correcting criminal records information or mugshots that have been published online or in print. Violators could also be open to lawsuits.

The bill targets businesses that publish mugshots and charging information automatically scraped from county sheriff’s websites and then charge hundreds of dollars to remove or correct them.

State Rep. John Barnes Jr., D-Cleveland, who sponsored the bill, called it a racket.

The bill “would choke off a form of legalized extortion (that) preys on anyone arrested for a crime — regardless of whether they were ever convicted,” said Stephen JohnsonGrove, senior staff attorney for the Ohio Justice and Policy Center in Cincinnati. In his written testimony, JohnsonGrove called it a “grossly unfair practice.”

The bill gained support from the Ohio News Media Association, which testified that it strikes a balance between freedom of the press and stopping an undesirable practice.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Senate votes to protect Lake Erie drinking water

Meanwhile, the Ohio Senate voted unanimously in favor of a sweeping bipartisan bill to strengthen protections for Lake Erie and public drinking water systems. Senate Bill 2 is supported by business and environmental groups.

It would require water systems to do long-term planning for replacing aging infrastructure, add regulations for construction and demolition debris landfills, speed up environmental reviews and encourage better use of dredge material dug up from rivers connected to Lake Erie.

Dumping dredge material into Lake Erie will be prohibited as of July 1, 2020.

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

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