Busted! (Privacy Violation or Not?)

In the area where I live (Bristol, VA/TN), there is a weekly paper called Tri-Cities Busted that contains photographs and alleged "crimes" of various people in several clustered counties. The photos are, of course, police department mugshots. The paper clearly states on the cover and throughout several pages that the people contained within it have only been ACCUSED of the crimes attached to their names, not CONVICTED.

The publishers of the paper, who seem to be cloaked in a shroud of anonymity and go by the trade name "Tri-Cities Busted" with only a phone number and a post office box to identify them, claim that they sell over 60,000 copies of the paper each week, at a dollar per issue.  Obviously, readership is quite high since the population of Bristol is less than 60,000.  I buy a copy myself each week out of sheer curiosity.

The publishers also claim, via a fine-print blurb in the paper itself, that the information provided within the pages of the Busted paper is information that is freely available to the public from various (named) law enforcement agencies in the area.  I don't know about YOUR area, but I do know that in THIS area where they are obtaining their information, law enforcement agencies DO NOT provide full names and details about charges against defendants to "just anyone" from the public that inquires.  Otherwise, we could all call up the local P.D. and ask for a list of names, charges, and accompanying photographs (mugshots) for everyone arrested within a particular time frame.

In a day and time where anyone can accuse someone of just about anything and have that person arrested and forced to endure the judicial process to determine actual guilt, isn't this a violation of a person's right to privacy? Friends, family members, employers, and potential employers likely peruse this little rag of a paper...and in most people's minds, it implies guilt before conviction.

Charges can be dismissed, the actual guilty party can be located, evidence can be introduced that exonerates the accused...but these people are already "guilty" in the mind of the public because their picture was shown with a little blurb stating what they supposedly did that was against the law.

Even in the underbelly of society, this "newspaper" can have damaging consequences for certain people. For example (and this is likely a stretch, but here goes...), a drug dealer sees that one of his suppliers or customers has been arrested and charged with a drug possession crime. The person is still mysteriously out and about and isn't spending time in jail. In the minds of some of the criminal subculture, this means that person is a narc (snitch). Thus, the accused (but not yet convicted) person is now a pariah and likely a target for violence.

Another example...a company executive just finished a round of interviews and has a potential candidate for the position at the forefront of his mind, and thumbs through the Busted flyer during his lunch break.  He sees the potential candidate, who was the most qualified, as having been arrested on various charges and immediately decides that the person is no longer a viable prospect.  If that person is subsequently convicted of the charges, perhaps he made a wise decision...but what if that person was charged in a case of mistaken identity, evidence was introduced in court that cleared him of wrongdoing, or the charges were otherwise dismissed?

And yet another example...someone reads through the flyer and discovers that one of their neighbors has been charged with a crime.  Let's say...distribution of drugs.  Or even domestic violence.  That neighbor is now automatically considered a "criminal" by the do-gooder reading the paper and every move made henceforth is under scrutiny for the opportunity for the do-gooder to notify the police that "something else" is now going on at the alleged criminal's house.  This would be harassment, naturally...and especially if the accused was subsequently cleared of the charges.

When does a person's right to privacy and someone else's "right" to violate that privacy become a controversial and disputable issue?

Virginia Code 8.01-40 prohibits the use of any person's name or picture for the purpose of "trade" (profit) without that person's written consent.  (See http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+8.01-40 for legal citation.)

Tennessee Code 47-25-1103 states that every individual has a "property right" interest in the use of their name, photograph, or likeness in any medium and in any manner.  (See http://law.justia.com/tennessee/codes/2010/title-47/chapter-25/part-11/47-25-1103/ for legal citation.)

Based on Virginia and Tennessee law, the publishers of Tri-Cities Busted are clearly violating the law many times over every week with each publication of their tabloid.

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Comments 36 comments

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

You are damn near becoming one of my fave authors on here. Great work :-;


BEN THERE SEEN THINGS 5 years ago

THAT'S JUST BRISTOL AND SULLIVAN COUNTY POLICE DOING WHAT THEY DO BEST. MAKING MONEY; IF YOU DIG DEEP,YOU MIGHT SEE WHO IS REALLY BEHIND THIS. I MYSELF SAY ITS SOMEONE WHO HAS SOME KIND CONECTION TO LAW ENFORCEMENT


mathman32503 5 years ago

The newspaper (such as it is) is protected by the First Amendment, which supersedes the local laws in this case. As long as they don't publish inaccurate information, they can print whatever information they obtain. My hometown newspaper (Findlay Courier) published a docket and arrest record every day when I was a kid. What they didn't publish was a mug shot to give a face to the names. If my face showed up, I'd be suing the police department.


tysanders profile image

tysanders 5 years ago from Atlanta, Ga

You are an excellent writer and you produce favorable content. Well done.


Becky 5 years ago

The information published in Busted is pulled directly from the Washington County Sheriff's office website. On their website, click 'public information' and then click to view the weekly arrest report. The PDF file contains the photo, name, address and all of the other information published in Busted. I don't know that I agree with this being publicly available, though I wouldn't mind a publication of convictions. However, I'm pointing it out because it clears up the errors in your article.


crystolite profile image

crystolite 5 years ago from Houston TX

Nice write up that well packaged and organized.


anonymous  5 years ago

I was recently placed in this publication. I was never told befor hand by anyone that I would be placed in it or how I might go by removing my photo from it. My photo has been taken from the publication and sent by text to my friends, family, fellow students. I am in a program where I fear I may be kicked out due to being in this publication. I have an attorney who discovered that I was charged incorrectly by the police who did not follow protocol. He seems to think that I may be exhonerated but the damage has clearly been done by the Tri-Cities Busted crew.


Margaret 5 years ago

This paper is not a first amendment right. It is a clear violation of presumption of innocence until proven guilty


James 5 years ago

If you look up the Freedom of Information Act, you will see how this information is freely available. The FOIA is used to prevent government departments from essentially covering up illegal acts. I'm not saying it still doesn't go on, it's just harder thanks to the act.


anonymous 5 years ago

I really appreciate you presenting this information in an intelligent and informative way...as someone who has had the awful experience of being put in this disgusting rag, I completely feel my rights were violated. I have since had the charges that were placed against me dismissed, and my question is...will this disgraceful publication now print that the charges filed against me were false and clear my name to all of my co workers, friends, and neighbors? My guess is no..and this is why this is a shameful rackett to make money off of the misfortune, or in my case, false charges, placed on others. If it is not against the law, it should be.


The Drifter 5 years ago

Arrest records are in the public domain, go to local police dept. web sites and it's often right there... It is in the area where you/I live.


Smart1 5 years ago

Did you know that if your dog is caught running loose that you get processed like a criminal and put in Busted?? Ask me... I'm a law abiding citizen but when my neighbor called the police because my dog "got loose" while I was at work.


Steve 5 years ago

Public records are property of the people. When that camera clicked it was on the tax payers dime. Don't like the publication, don't buy it. Pretty simple.


brianna 5 years ago

all of you shut up


K. WILLIAMS 5 years ago

I FEEL YOU THEY HAD MY SON IN THERE AND HE WAS LOCKED UP SOMEWHWERE ELSE AND I KNOW THEY DIDN'T HAVE HIS CONSENT


lts 5 years ago

Well I for one am going to try to do a lawsuit, my records were sealed and expunged only time had an issue, but anyways, haven't been able to have any phone calls or jobs because of this, and also I called everyone in the county municipal prosecutors office and they all said my record was sealed and expunged. So I have no idea how they received this incorrect information but they did, it's not illegal to post the picture, but I believe it's illegal to make money off of someone's mugshot, and unhappiness, and then to bring is all up after years and years, yes it should be against the law.

Going to look at the sheriff's office regarding this also.


nil173 5 years ago

So many of you bring up such good points. Has anyone actually done something about it...say called an attorneys office? All the talk is great, we should all sign a potision maybe then BUSTED would be forced to stop publishing. Furthermore, I am not against "public records". If someone feels the need to look up arrests they should do it on their own; via internet for example. But what busted is doing is wrong. They are out for the sheer profit at others expense and do it for entertainment.


emcee423tn 4 years ago

I have bought this publiCation a few times out of curiosity myself and could have been in it for DUI charges had it been available a few years ago. I think it's totally a violation of privacy. They sure don't have a publication called "AQUITTED".


Tim 4 years ago

Busted! operates out of Austin, TX through Citizens Information Associates under the direction of Star Nine Ventures. The proof is on ripoffreport.com ALL the mug scammers aint to happy with this article in the Fort Worth Weekly...http://t.co/Y9m3ihxd


Anonymous 4 years ago

The person who owns this paper is from Rome, Georgia. Her name is Tracy Anderson. Tracy Anderson D.B.A. (doing business as) Tri-Cities Busted. I did some research and found this out. She started papers in Georgia and worked her way up to Tennessee.


Anonymous 4 years ago

To tim, the person who owns Busted in Austin is a different person. There is a few videos of the guy who owns BUSTED. This is a different person that owns tri-cities busted. Good observation though.


dh1985 4 years ago

I was in this paper for being charged for theft, over something stupid. I am laid off from work and now I will be lucky to find a job. This paper is very damaging and people automatically assume that if you are in this paper you are guilty and a bad person. I will be consulting with my lawyer about a lawsuit against this paper for making a profit off my name and likeness. Also like someone mentioned the title "BUSTED" insinuates that you are guilty. If I happen to go to trial a jury's decision could be affected my this paper. Only bad thinks could come out of a paper like this.


john alderman 4 years ago

The sheriff of Unicoi County, TN, Kent Harris, has never had his photo in tht Tri Cities Busyed magazine. WHY? His trial date has been set in Criminal Court. You can not go yo trial in Criminal Court without being arrested and book for a crime. WHERE IS HIS PHOTO? Someone who has had there photo in this magazine should file a discrimination lawsuit.


anonymous 4 years ago

unfortunately, there is a clause in the Constitution which gives the right to public information which super-cedes any tennessee or virginia laws


Stephen 4 years ago

Correct, this is completely legal and all the information is available BY LAW from various agencies. There is no act or law against this. Once your in the legal system, I'm sorry to say but your information is publicly available. In other words, be good and don't get busted lol.


Michelle 4 years ago

actually its a woman from GA,she makes a paper there too as well.i just now watched video from the 11 connects news from 2010,says they r all public records she some how manages to get here hands on EVERY SINGLE arrest?!


linchado 4 years ago

Uh, not taking up for Kent Harris or anything, but probably not a good example of someone who has not received publicity regarding his arrest.


Rafael tano 4 years ago

Both of those codes you quoted actually are about trade misappropriation. So for example, I can't use the image of Brad Pitt for an advertisement endorsing my product without consent. This would be misappropriation.


JT 4 years ago

To everyone who is claiming this is 'public knowledge' and 'protected by the first amendment', just shut up. This is point blank exploitation and these f#%kers should be sued up their asses. How would you feel if your name was being flung around like a monkeys dung? This is as harmful as a script-kiddie stealing someones social networking page and posting a load of vulgar pictures and comments.


Sign of the Times 4 years ago

Controversy:

Like to see people debating our constitutional rights. Publications across the country, of this type, spawned in '07 when Congress passed the "OPEN Government Act," which defined “news media” and codified the rights of publications to distribute information procured through the Freedom Of Information Act for a fee. Just another incremental step in the treasonous Agenda. Agenda 21 that is. Is this what they meant when they preach about a more transparent government? Now I'm all for the entrepreneurial spirit and making a money for your family any way can, that is legal, but this is pushing the limits of society's perceived privacy. At least it is waking people up and sparking debate about our rights. It is the proverbial "tip of the iceberg" or "just scratching the surface" of what is happening in our country.


JOKER 1%ER 4 years ago

I AGGREE W/ MOST ON HERE THAT THIS PAPER VOIOLATES CERTAIN CONSTUTIONAL RIGHTS I FOR ONE AM GOING TO ASK A LAWYER ABOUT THIS AS THIS IS A SMALL AERIA WHERE MOST WILL LOOK AT YOUR PIC AND SAY TO THEMSELVES IF THE PRERSON DIDN'T DO THE CRIME THEY WOULDN'T BE IN THIS PAPER THAT AND THE FACT THAT THE PUBLISHES IS MAKING A KILLING OFF OTHERS MISFOURTIONS, IN A PLACE THAT JOBS ARE AT LEAST SCARCE I AM AN owner OF A SMALL COMPANY THAT DEALS W/ THE PUBLIC I HAVE BEEN IN THIS PAPER SOON AFTERWARD MY BUISNESS DECLINRED I FEEL THE DECLINATION IS MOSTLY DUE TO THIS PUBLICATION, IM VERY GLAD TO SEE THIS POST ONLINE THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE AROUND HERE THAT FELT THIS WAY


hatin it 4 years ago

i too have unfortunately been printed in a local "busted" paper. point blank, if i wasn't where i was, i would have never had the trouble. however, those kind of papers are also detrimental to those close to you as well. i do agree it paints a picture of an individual without circumstance and in a bible belt town that is no bueno....


This appears to be libelous and purposeby shown as being guilty based upon the quote "just busted" meaning "caught in the act of criminal activity; lawsuits should be filed against the owner, publishe 3 years ago

This appears to be libelous, simply from the name "just busted", busted means "caught in criminal activity"....... After dismissal of any charge, a right of action should be brought against the publisher, the owner, the editor and against any person who has profited from any such publication. The damage and harm to innocent people is irreversible but the intent of the publication is subjecting innocent people to publiv ridicule and hate. You can' t yell "fire" in a crowded theatre and cause a stampede and then claim "first amendment rights of free speech" and avoid liability. Just sue the bastards and let justice by twelve jurors ring loud and clear.....


Nero 3 years ago

All of the information in the paper is freely available on most, if not all, of the law enforcement office websites, court websites, or you can just go to the court house and find it for yourself. Your argument is that this paper is a violation of the Virginia Code § 8.01-40, but as another mentioned above me (though he tacked on some paranoid conspiracy theory with it concerning the resolution of Agenda 21 by the U.N.) a federal law was passed allowing the use of the information acquired through the FIA to use that information for profit making. There is a very simple way to avoid the troubles that come with landing in that paper, and it's to avoid doing anything that can get you arrested. No rights are being infringed upon, take Cops. They have been doing the same thing for years now, and no one is up in arms about it.


Keith 3 years ago

But on cops if you don't sign a release they blur your face.


Randy 2 years ago

How can I keep my arrest our of this paper?

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