Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to stop posting online mug shots

LARGO — Mug shots of inmates at the Pinellas County Jail will no longer be posted on the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office website starting Monday.

Since 2005, the Sheriff's Office has allowed public access to mug shots, which are photographs of inmates who are booked into the jail.

But Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced Thursday that his office will stop posting the photos online because commercial websites continue to scrape mug shots from his office's "Who's In Jail" web page. Other websites then repost them, and some charge fees if people want their mug shots removed.

"The reposting of their booking photo isn't illegal," Gualtieri said, but added that charging a fee is "unconscionable, verging on blackmail and clearly taking advantage of someone's circumstances."

Last year, advertised removal packages ranging from $399 for removal of one arrest to up to $1,799 for five. But on Thursday, removal costs were not available on the site. operators could not be reached for comment. Because websites may charge different fees, "a person may have to pay an exorbitant amount of money" to remove each post, the sheriff added.

People searching the "Who's in Jail" site will still be able to access information, such as an inmate's name, charge and date of birth, but photos won't be available online. However, public records requests will be honored, the Sheriff's Office said.

About 50,000 people are booked into the Pinellas County Jail every year. A Florida Sheriff's Association spokeswoman said Thursday that the organization had not heard of any other sheriff's agencies considering removing all booking photos.

Other sheriff's offices in Tampa Bay have not planned to follow suit, but Pasco sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll called the Pinellas change "an interesting development."

"We would just like to see how it works for the time being," he said, adding that arrest information could still be obtained by the commercial websites, even if the photos are not available online.

But Gualtieri said residents he spoke with whose arrest records had been picked up by the websites were mostly concerned about the photos. Gualtieri's decision is among several recent efforts to deter the websites from cashing in on people's arrests.

In June, Shannon Bilotta, 44, was arrested by Largo police on a domestic battery charge and booked into the Pinellas County Jail. The next month, the charge was dropped. But Bilotta's mug shot remains online.

She is the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against several mug shot websites, including and, that was filed in November. Her attorneys are seeking class-action status.

Among them is Tampa lawyer Matthew Crist, who said Gualtieri's decision was "really good news."

"It will stop these websites from being able to acquire content, at least from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office," he said. People "won't face the same problems that Ms. Bilotta did."

A similar lawsuit was filed in Toledo, Ohio, which resulted in a settlement last year that included an agreement with two websites, and, to stop charging fees for mug shot removals.

The Tampa Bay Times also posts mugshots of arrestees on its website at — but does not accept payment for removing them. All photos and booking records published at are automatically removed 60 days after the booking date.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at or (727) 445-4157.

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to stop posting online mug shots 01/09/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 10, 2014 8:11am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Coming to Hulu in August: 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure,' 'Saw' movies and more


    Hello, binge-worthy new additions to Hulu. Clue, Clueless and five Saw movies? You spoil us, Hulu.

    Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.
  2. Whitman: Hollywood whitewashing raises questions about Jesus' depiction


    I grew up believing in white Jesus.

    A painting on my grandma's wall depicted a blonde, blue-eyed Christ.

  3. Special sorority seeks ways to help their Green Berets and themselves during St. Leo summit


    ST. LEO — Julie Huynh-Rusk lies down on the floor of a St. Leo University conference room, covered by a blanket and a pink eye-pillow.

    Julie Huynh-Rusk, 31, of Seattle, takes advantage of a meditation session at Saint Leo University on Wednesday as part of the Steel Mags Summer Summit. 
The Steel Mags Sorority was founded to help spouses, daughters, mothers, and sisters of  Green Berets. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]

  4. Watch: Sarasota vlogger goes on viral rant against MTV's 'Siesta Key'


    Looking forward to MTV’s Siesta Key? Well, this Florida native definitely is not.

    Vlogger Louie Carey posted his reaction to MTV's "Siesta Key" in a viral video.
  5. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 23: Of tiny towns, wonderful naps and dreamlike ice cream bars


    Day 23: Murias de Rechivaldo to Foncebadon: 20.8 km, 6 hours. Total for Days 1-23 = 541 km (336 miles)