Certain North Carolina legislators have inserted an amendment into an appropriations bill that would require retractions by newspapers concerning reports about individuals being arrested who later are acquitted of the offense. The newspaper would also be required to purge information regarding that individual’s arrest from the public archives.
The policy behind such a requirement appears to concern doing all that one can to clear an individual’s name for those that are wrongly accused. The booking photo of those arrested is often posted in newspapers and websites, and these mugshots can be an extreme cause of embarrassment.
Under this provision, when someone is wrongfully arrested they can notify the media outlet of what has occurred. The outlet would then have 15 days to remove the story or retract the information if removal of the story in no longer possible. The newspapers also could not charge a fee for the removal of this information.
This amendment may never actually be implemented into law, however. One newspaper has already charged that it is the fault of law enforcement rather than newspapers that these stories do appear. An editorial in that paper claims that the General Assembly should be more concerned about why innocent individuals are being arrested rather than focus on telling newspapers what can and cannot be published.
This newspaper may be justified in pointing the finger at law enforcement officials. Whether this provision is or is not passed, those wrongfully accused will require the assistance of criminal defense attorneys. However, that such a bill is deemed necessary does demonstrate how damaging an arrest can be to one’s private reputation. Also, the fact that there is this concern may also indicate that a number of wrongful arrests have occurred in North Carolina.
Source: Your Daily Journal, “Our View: Bad arrests? Don’t blame the press,” June 3, 2014