Innocent people are sometimes arrested, but if their mugshots or rap sheets are posted on websites before charges are dropped or they are acquitted, it can ruin their reputations. Some shady website operators know this, and are actually charging arrested people not to post the embarrassing information.

Sean Gallup, Getty Images

New legislation would make that practice illegal in the Garden State.

"Your mugshot and those things that go with the arrest are public record," said Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-Union). "What these folks are doing at these websites is, they're threatening to publish those. They literally solicit people that have been arrested, and demand payment for the opportunity not to publish -- in other words, blackmail."

A bill co-sponsored by Cryan and fellow Assembly members Angel Fuentes (D-Audubon) and Celeste Riley (D-Salem) would bar a person from charging a fee to stop publishing personal identifying information obtained through the criminal justice system.

"We live in a country where we hopefully believe in innocent until proven guilty; you can really hurt somebody via these websites with this kind of information out there," Cryan said. "We live in a society where folks live on their smartphones, where information is instant, and here we are going to use information to literally blackmail people. I think it's pretty frightening."

It is legal for the public to access this information, but Cryan said it is clear that in some cases, the true intent for these unscrupulous website operators is to coerce people to pay to remove the information -- in order to avoid embarrassment, negative job or social consequences, and other impacts.

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