Help Desk

What to do when an online mug shot messes with your romantic prospects

Help Desk

:( Help!

Several months ago I was involved in a fight outside a bar. Though I was acting in self-defense, I was arrested and charged with assault. I have a good (expensive) lawyer and have been told that I'll likely get the charge dismissed. I'm not writing for legal advice.

Actually, I need dating help. I know it's the least of my problems, but lately I've been striking out with girls. A first date will go well, then when I try to set up a second – nothing. I have an unusual name, and when you Google it the first thing that comes up is a mug shot of me looking pretty rough. I'm sure that's what's sinking my love life, though I never get the chance to tell my side of the story.

Is there a mug shot removal service you recommend? (Not that I can afford it after lawyer bills.) Otherwise, how do I prepare a date for my search results? – Big Ugly Situation Thoroughly Eliminating Dates

Glad you don't need legal advice, BUSTED, because we aren't lawyers. We do, however, recommend you ask your counsel about this online-reputation problem. We've heard of so-called mug shot removal services, and they don't smell right. Rumor is they're in cahoots with the very websites they claim to be policing. We've also heard the term "whack-a-mole" applied to these services. If you do pay up, your mug shot may be scrubbed from one website, but it'll likely turn up again days or weeks later. This can continue long after you've been found not guilty.

Luckily, Texas has recognized the online mug shot extortion scheme and passed a law to try to help its victims. A 2013 law called SB 1289 creates a mechanism for mug shot subjects to contact these websites and dispute the accuracy of the information published. If the information is no longer accurate (if, say, your arresting charge is dropped or reduced), then the website must remove the mug shot or pay a fine. Again, you'll want to go through a lawyer – both for reliable counsel, and because a lawyer's letterhead will be more effective than

We understand that this doesn't solve the problem you came to us with, at least not yet. In the dating sphere, as long as your mug shot is online, you're guilty until proven innocent. Take heart that you'll have your day in court with the opportunity to set the record clean.

In the meantime, consider each first date an opportunity to show who you really are, in contrast to that rough-looking guy in the image search results. Be courteous, try to make a connection, and don't rush intimacy. Afterward, if it went well, send a message like the first paragraph of your letter to us – a concise explanation of your situation that doesn't demand anything of her, not even that she believe your version of events. Sooner or later, you'll find someone willing to give you a chance and, eventually, believe in you as a good person. That's what we're all looking for anyway, right? :) HD

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