According to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, an arrest is defined as the “use of legal authority to deprive someone of his or her freedom of movement.” An arrest is not, however, a proof of a conviction.

Arrestees are often found not guilty. Sometimes the charges are dropped.

But in today’s society, a person’s innocence or otherwise spotless record does not guarantee his or her online reputation will be as clean. In fact, with the power of Google – which is generally a positive tool – we have seen a rise in the number of cases involving false arrests that lead to significant reputational damage.

The good news is that, in some situations, an individual harmed as a result of a false arrest may be entitled to large amounts of damages – perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions. But, on the flip side, it may be extremely costly to “clean up” a reputation, and sometimes even large sums of money will not be able to fully repair an wrongful arrestee’s image.

Once word of an arrest – albeit an improper one – reaches the media, it can spread very wide across the internet and become a part of a person’s public record. For a casual internet searcher, learning of someone’s arrest may be insignificant in some cases. But for an employer or potential employer, news of an arrest is likely to lead to unemployment or the inability of the arrestee to find any future employment.

A person wrongfully arrested for theft could be forever be labeled a thief online. A person wrongfully arrested for sexual assault could be forever be labeled a sex offender online.

Often times, internet users do not even have to complete searches of someone’s name to see this, as Google, Bing or another search engine may suggest a phrase in the search box such as “[Person’s name] arrested.”

Chris Anderson