Are Mugshots On Public Record?

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Mug Shot

All the states except for Louisiana, regard a mug shot as a photo taken of a suspect when they are booked in by the police or when the suspect is charged criminally and placed on public record. The ease of obtaining copies of mugshots often has to do with the agency that was involved, and in some cases who were arrested.

Whether or not mugshots form a portion of public records is discretionary. For example, a news organization usually has to request a copy citing that it is the right of the public to know about the person arrested and whether the police are doing their job within their community. For this reason, releasing a mugshot is usually up to a law-enforcement agency that has jurisdiction.

The mugshots of celebrities are usually easy to find when compared to the mugshots of ordinary individuals. At the same time, people that have committed a serious crime will usually have their mugshot circulating in newspapers and online more than a person that has criminal charges that are less significant. A juvenile that has a criminal record will typically be sealed from the public and expunged completely once they reach the age of 18, might have their mugshot released to the public when they have committed a felony offense that is serious that has resulted from the person being charged once they are an adult.

In one of the cities in Florida, police made the decision to release a mugshot of one of the officers that were accused and charged with a very serious crime, while they withheld another officer’s mugshot since they came to the decision that the other officer’s crime wasn’t as serious. It is common for the police to either withhold or seal information in cases still under investigation. Or during an internal investigation involving police misconduct.

Fugitives have been a subject related to widely-released mugshots, mainly in Interpol’s and the F.B.I. ‘s well-known “most-wanted” lists. At the same time, police often release composite sketched or mugshots of a suspect when they have reason to believe the individual may be linked to a serious crime. Many career criminals and serial rapists are often implicated in a new case when the mugshot was spread prominently across various jurisdictions. Many of the cold cases that remain unsolved over many years, will often receive renewed interest once police release the mugshots of the suspects that are questioned in crimes.

Prominent Mugshots

Many states have laws enacted that punish most sex offenders very harshly, especially the ones that prey upon vulnerable populations or children. If the person is forced into registering as a “sex offender” it will mean that their mugshot will be distributed by the police in that area, and posted all over public places including town libraries and city halls. There are also laws in most states that aim at protecting people on a sex offender registry when it comes to discrimination and harassment, yet in many instances, neighbors will circulate the mugshot of the person to warn other people of the person’s whereabouts. People on a sex offender registry are usually banned from gaining access to or entering areas such as playgrounds, schools, or the places where children usually congregate.

 Mugshot Extortion

Most of the law enforcement agencies are now hesitant to release the mugshots of each person that they arrest thanks to the Internet. Mugshots stay online forever, which can shame and limit the individual’s opportunities for housing, employment, and many other things even if the person was never charged or convicted of that crime. Mugshot removal services ensure that a mugshot is removed and not circulated on the internet. Most of the states have now implemented laws to deal with these tactics and their websites, including California, which sued one of these prominent websites. This same website then went onto change the tactic it was using to include “news” in the name, advertising that they now provide mugshots for public records similar to a newspaper.

FOIA And Mugshots Online

Not many states have limited releasing mugshots as seriously and as much as New York, where the amendment to the Freedom of Information Act Law restricts the law enforcement agencies from releasing or distributing a mugshot unless there is a compelling and valid reason, such in the cases of wanted fugitives. The laws that calls for the release relating to this information is classified as an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” and even limits releasing the booking information to favor keeping things confidential till the stage that the person has been found guilty.