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Mugshot Definition

A mugshot is a photograph taken when an individual is initially arrested. Typically, a mugshot photo is taken from the front and a profile view to have an accurate identification of the criminal's features on record. Behind the criminal, there is a height measurement to show how tall they are for suspect profiling in future cases. Mugshots have become rather famous in the United States on television series. There are many strict rules about mugshots that criminals should be aware of to protect their individual privacy rights.

What Happens When You Are Arrested?

When you are arrested, it is a little bit chaotic. If you are under the influence of a substance, it may be even more chaotic. Usually, the criminal is handcuffed and taken into the jail to be booked. At this stage, all of their personal property is removed and placed in storage. They are given clothing to change into and sometimes, have a full body inspection to make sure they have no weapons. Then, they have a photograph taken of them called a mugshot where they have a frontal view of their face and then a profile shot. If the criminal has never committed a crime before, a file is made for them that includes the mugshot along with a description of their criminal charges. This arrest may stay on their record even if they do not end up going to prison after their court hearings.

Are Mugshot Photos Allowed to Be Made Public?

There has been a very intense debate about mugshot privacy recently. This debate has been due to newspapers getting ahold of mugshot photos of celebrities and posting them publicly. Some states have enacted legislation that forces external sites to unpublish mugshot photos and pay a fine. The idea behind this is to allow the criminal to have some privacy while they are dealing with their upcoming court hearings.

When a mugshot photo is taken, it is usually kept in the records of the local police station that took the mugshot. What happens is that some of these police stations will post the mugshot on their websites, which then places the photo in the public domain. As a result, many profitable mugshot websites have been created with the marketing campaign to protect the public by making them aware of suspected criminals. Many of these sites then charge the criminal to take a photograph off of their website. At times, these websites will remove a photo for free if the criminal being arrested did not end up being formally charged with any crime.

How Is the Law Responding to Mugshot Websites?

A factor that has greatly complicated mugshots is the expansion of the Internet. Previously, it was quite easy to keep the mugshot photographs out of the public eye and in police records. In 1996, a federal appeals court held that criminal defendants did not have a privacy interest in protecting their booking mugshot photos from being exposed. This decision was recently overruled in 2016, and the same court indicated that criminals do have a non-trivial privacy interest in their booking mugshot photos.

It has become common for individuals to sue mugshot websites for illegally posting their picture. Utah has specific legislation in place barring any website from charging a fee to remove mugshots from a for-profit website. Oregon has also enacted similar legislation to protect the privacy interests of criminal defendants. Google has also made efforts to program their search engines to not publicly display mugshot photos when an individual's name is searched who may have a criminal record. Reputation management has become quite common as a way to pay a company money to alter search engine results to lower the possibility of mugshots being shown when a former criminal's name is searched. If you are having issues with your mugshot being illegally published, it is wise to speak to an attorney. Mugshot privacy protection law is a niche that specialized attorneys will be able to assist you with so that your mugshot photographs do not negatively impact your reputation or long-term employment prospects.

Mugshot Glossary Definition

A mugshot is a photograph taken by law enforcement officers to make a visual record of a person who has recently been arrested. This photograph is then entered into the criminal records system so that in the long-term, future law enforcement officers can identify the criminal's physical features. Today, there are many companies abusing mugshot photographs, which has made protecting the privacy interests of criminal defendants and their mugshots a new specialized niche of law in many states within the United States.