'Cute convict' suing website over use of her mug shot

By Gabe Gutierrez and Scott Stump

A Florida woman whose mugshot has gone viral is suing a website that she claims is using the photo without her permission. 

Meagan Simmons became known as the "cute convict" and the "model inmate" after an attractive mugshot from a DUI arrest in 2010 was shared online. She is suing the website InstantCheckmate.com, a background check company, for using her image for commercial purposes without her consent and causing her to feel "humiliated and embarrassed" and suffer "mental pain and anguish."

The company denies her claim, saying her photo was a widely-published public record that did not suggest Simmons endorsed any product. 

Florida woman Meagan Simmons claims in a lawsuit that the use of her mugshot by the website InstantCheckmate.com was done without her permission. Today

"The only issue really involved in our case is the narrow use of her mugshot to promote this particular product in a way without her consent,'' Simmons' attorney, Matthew Crist, told TODAY. 

Simmons' mugshot became an online meme, with people writing things like "Guilty — of taking my breath away," and "Can I have her cell number?" 

"It was flattering at first,'' she told WTSP-TV in Tampa. "You know, people thought it was pretty. I thought it was awful, but I have kids and people now know where I live." 

More and more private citizens are seeing their images used for unauthorized purposes. A California woman told NBC National Investigative Correspondent Jeff Rossen last month that her before-and-after images were used in a weight loss advertisement for a product she had never used or heard of. 

"We often forget that people still do have the legal right to control the use of their image, and that's especially true when it's used by private companies in advertising,'' NBC News legal analyst Lisa Bloom told TODAY.