While making sure I didn't miss any Georgia DUI news, I came upon the Muscogee County Ledger-Enquirer this evening. What was reported as part of the news are the 23 people arrested for DUI in the past several days. I normally provide a link but will refrain because I don't want to give their publication my seal of approval.
For what possible purpose, other than to bring ridicule, could there be for posting those persons arrested for DUI? These are not people convicted of any crime. They have been arrested. Will some or most be convicted? Probably so but that is not a reason to pre-convict them online. However, have we not learned anything from the countless cases involving people who were innocent of a crime, yet whose faces are plastered all over the media anyway?
Being arrested for DUI in Georgia is bad enough. Nothing is served by publically shaming people. Furthermore, “for profit” entities take these pictures and repost them all over the Internet. These websites then charge people as much as $500 to have their image removed. So, in effect the Ledger-Enquirer, and other newspapers are fueling an extortion racket run online by websites that profit from posting these pictures.
And what of the innocent? These “for profit” websites are virtually impossible to contact. Georgia Law requires them to take down images of those acquitted, however that law is unenforceable.
Even if enforceable, the damage to people is already done. Employers are not required to wait for the outcome of a case before making an employment decision. Many people charged with a crime, but not yet convicted, simply lose their jobs after they are arrested. Then, when looking for a new job, their arrest photo is all over the Internet. This is entirely unfair and evil.
Asking for newspapers and Internet search engines to self-regulate this issue is only fair. It is not censorship. I am asking publications to respect our legal process and presumption of innocence. Once a person is publically ridiculed for being arrested, that bell cannot be un-rung and the damage is done. Common decency says at least wait until a person is convicted before publishing their photo in a newspaper. My personal position is that even a conviction for a misdemeanor offense is hardly news.