What Do Criminals Hold In Mugshots?

August 9, 2022

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What do criminals hold in mugshots? Learn about the history and use of mugshots in our guide below. 

You may have seen photos online of arrested individuals holding placards with their details. Several of these images can be found in news articles or social media. These are called mugshots.

Find out more about mug shots, why they are important, the booking process, and whether these booking photos are public records.

What Are Mug Shots?

Mugshots refer to the photographs that the police take of an arrested individual. Taking these photographs is done before the criminal trial and as part of the booking process.

The term ” mugshot” comes from the slang usage of the word “mug,” which means face. Hence, a mugshot is simply a photo taken of an arrested person’s face and other features. After the arrest, the criminal suspect undergoes booking, fingerprint collection, and photographing. These are all done for identification purposes.

What Does A Mug Shot Typically Include?

To let the full face be captured, a mugshot must include both the side and front portrait of the arrested person. In these portraits, the subject also carries a placard that contains mugshot information that helps the police, investigators, and other law enforcement agencies identify the person. This information may include:

  • Name
  • Booking ID
  • Additional relevant information (height, weight, etc.)

Such mugshot portraits get included in the police’s booking records and arrest records as part of what is known as the booking process.

Now, when someone asks, “what do criminals hold in mugshots?” you can tell them all about the unique features and roles of the modern booking photo.

The Booking Process

Photographing criminals and suspects is part of the overall booking process that each suspect has to undergo. This process is important because it creates the official arrest records of the suspected individual. In most cases, those resisting arrest cannot be let go unless the entire booking process is complete.

For those unfamiliar with the booking process, here are the usual steps that the booking officer and the alleged person must undergo.

STEP 1: Note the suspect’s name and alleged crime.

STEP 2: Take photographs (mugshots) of the suspect.

STEP 3: Take custody of the suspect’s personal property and clothing.

STEP 4: Capture fingerprints.

STEP 5: Do a full-body search.

STEP 6: Look for any outstanding warrants.

STEP 7: Screen the suspect’s health.

STEP 8: Get information that may be relevant to charges (ex. gang involvement).

STEP 9: Take a DNA sample.

While things can vary based on some states, this is the typical process that people arrested and the police go through to create a criminal record for the arrested person. These procedures are done before sending the person to jail.

Why Are Mugshots Important For The Criminal Justice System?

As mentioned earlier, mugshots are important because they help the police and other law enforcement agencies identify persons. Such photographs of arrested persons make it easier for criminal victims, the public, and investigators to identify the person. Instead of having to think of descriptive adjectives to describe the person’s physical appearance, people can refer to the photographic record of the person.

Mugshots capture the small physical details

The camera used to take mugshots also captures small identifying details of alleged persons, such as moles or facial scars. These things tend to be taken for granted, so mug shots can come in handy in pointing these small details out.

Mugshots also capture the physical condition of a person. Because these are photos, investigators can see if the alleged person had any injuries or wounds during the course of booking. These small details could be important when the police use unlawful forces or if the suspect had been part of a quarrel before the arrest and booking.

Mugshots are important parts of the arrest records

Once the booking process is complete, the mug shot becomes part of the police and booking records. The master record needs to contain a photographic record so that law enforcement agencies would have an easier time when they need to use it.

Is Everyone With A Mug Shot Considered Guilty?

Mugshots are taken as part of the booking process before the actual trial. This fact is important because it means that all arrested people, guilty or not, have to get police photographs taken.

Thus, not all persons in the mugshot are proven guilty. The alleged person can be proven innocent later on. However, the criminal and booking records will remain because the person had a case of arrest.

Are Mugshots Public Records?

Mugshots are used by the police and other law enforcement entities for various purposes. However, the general public may have stumbled upon a mug shot once or twice on certain sites. Does this mean that mugshots are considered public records?

Though public records are visible to the public eye, there is more to what makes a record public. In legal terms, public records are records that the government or public agencies keep.

Considering how mugshots are kept by the police and law enforcement agencies, they are indeed held by public agencies. This reality means that mugshots are public records.

Where Can You Find Mug Shots Online?

Both government agencies and private companies have made mugshots and criminal records available and accessible online.

The Californian government, for example, offers a public inmate locator online that shows prisoners and their criminal charges. While a mugshot of their face and details are not included, this service is similar to a specialized mug shot website.

Other states, such as South Carolina, also have similar services. The common denominator that these services share is that they are publicly operated.

Mug Shot Websites

Mugshot websites, on the other hand, are privately operated. They are specialized sites that scrape off information from public records (arrest and criminal records, specifically) and publicly offer this information on their database.

Because the content of mug shot websites specifically focuses on crimes, you may see drug charges, felony charges, and other kinds of criminal charges included on these sites. Besides this description is the mugshot of the person that the police took.

To navigate through a mugshot website, you only need to search through their platform and scroll through the search results. You will be able to find accused conspirators and other arrested people.

Are Mugshot Websites Legal?

Considering the sensitivity of this information, you may wonder if mug shot sites are legal. Posting someone’s criminal records, publicizing mug shots, and garnering several profile views may sound like a privacy compromise.

While this seems to be the case, mug shot sites are legal. You can conclude this because these sites aggregate information from public records. Hence, mug shots do not exactly breach any privacy laws. This adherence to the law makes them legal entities.

What If My Mugshot Is Included In A Mugshot Website?

If you or someone you know had a mugshot photograph taken as part of the booking process, you might find your mug shot posted publicly on a mugshot website.

Seeing your photos and details posted on a mug shot website may not sit well with you. This publicity could add more fire to the flame, especially when your charges have already been cleared.

Have Your Mugshot Removed

If this is the case, you can have your mugshot removed from these mug shot sites. Unless you do something about it, your mugshot may remain on the site indefinitely.

You have a few options in doing so.

  • File a court petition. You can directly file a petition and ask for your records to be sealed or expunged. If this is clear, you may send the expungement record to the mugshot sites that posted your mug shot.
  • Follow the removal process for mugshots. Some mugshot sites have a concrete mugshot removal process that individuals can undergo. However, the costs of this may depend on some factors. These factors include the severity of charges, the verdict made, whether the charges were expunged or dropped, and when the incident occurred.
  • Consult a lawyer. You can also directly go to a lawyer or a law firm and ask for legal help. The lawyer can give you concrete legal advice on how to deal with the matter. Because the lawyer can serve as your legal representative, this could be less hassle for you.
  • Opt for mugshot removal services. One of the easiest fixes you can try is to avail yourself of mugshot removal services. By partnering with a third-party service to remove your mugshot, you can rest assured that your mugshot removal partner will handle the nitty and gritty tasks effectively and conveniently.

An Arrested Person Is Not Always A Convicted Person

While mugshots can be deceiving, you must remember that not everyone who has a mugshot taken is a criminal. The person can be found innocent later on. Getting photographed by the police is simply part of the booking process. The police and law enforcement agencies need booking photos for the records of crimes and future references.

Mugshots do not make a person guilty. You can have a mugshot and still be found innocent and be cleared of charges. In the end, the court—and not the mug shot—gives the final verdict.

Contact EraseMugshots Today

Having your name and information appear online in the form of a mugshot can be more than embarrassing; it can also ruin your digital reputation. Need help with getting your mugshots removed from the web? Contact us now! Learn more about mugshot removal and negative content suppression by calling 866-601-6803

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