Can online mug shots affect your job search?

FOX 5 I-Team investigates

Can online mug shots affect your job search?

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ATLANTA -

Online mug shots are an exploding phenomenon.  If you get arrested, your mug shot can show up on a lot of these sites. You can pay to get your mug shot pulled, but erasing it from every web site is very difficult.

A mug shot doesn't tell the whole story. Were you convicted? Was it a mistake? Mary-Stokes Reiss is a professional, and says she is terrified that her mug shot will be her first introduction to a potential new employer.

"My mug shot was right there," said Mary-Stokes Reiss.

Reiss is in her 20s and has a whole lot of job hunting ahead of her.

"It's embarrassing. Reputation is everything," said Reiss.

How did her mug shot end up on the internet? She's in outside sales and was headed to an appointment when she got pulled over by police for speeding.  
 
"He says, 'Ma'am, I need you to step out of the car,'" said Reiss.

She says she had no idea that her license had been suspended for paying a ticket a few days late.

"Now I'm in this situation. I'm in the back of a cop car, handcuffed," Reiss said.

After 12-hours in lock-up, Mary-Stokes got out and got a lawyer. The charges sorted out, but then got another big surprise.

"I'm applying for new jobs. Just decided to Google myself, just to see what was showing up," said Reiss.

She found her mug shot. Frantic, she says, she paid several hundred dollars to have it removed from one mug shot site.  Then, it popped up again on another one. She says they too wanted money to remove the record of this one crazy day she'd like to forget.

It felt endless. How did a speeding ticket turn into an online war to save her reputation? The I-Team took her situation to the head of a big company. A hiring expert says Reiss does need to control this, but, first she says, take a deep breath. Bad things happen to good people.

"Don't be hard on yourself," said Amy Gallagher of UHY Advisors.

Gallagher says she's seen potential hires' mug shots before she's actually seen them in person. But, she says - depending on the crime - it doesn't have the impact that you might think.

"First and foremost are the qualifications on the resume," said Gallagher.

But, if like Reiss you land in the pages of a criminal yearbook, she says you can't ignore the problem. She advises be honest on your application, but also don't bring it up in an interview unless they do.

"I guess I'll disclose it when I have to and just hope it won't be a deciding factor," said Reiss.

Reiss paid about $450 to have her mug shot removed. But there are still remnants of it left on the Internet that will may never go away.

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