Why Do Police Take Mugshots?

Mugshots are a staple of every Hollywood crime movie. And everyone knows that if you get arrested, the police will take your mugshot. But, have you ever wondered why police take mugshots? After all, they cost both time and money – so why go to the bother and expense?

The main reason the police take mugshots is that it’s rare that someone gets arrested the first time they commit a crime. In general, they have broken the law in similar ways in the past and simply not gotten caught. With a mugshot, the police can show the photo to victims of similar crimes and ask them if this is the person who victimized them. This allows them to close open cases and add additional charges onto the person.

Another reason is to make sure that the person has committed the crime in the first place. Often, the police will make an arrest on circumstantial evidence. They then need to confirm that they have arrested the right person. Showing the mugshot to the victim will let them confirm the evidence that led to the arrest – or else let them know that they’ve busted the wrong person.

Mugshots also help out the police if they need to find the person in the future. Most people who are arrested make bail. Some of them then refuse to turn up in court. If the police have a photo of the person, they can then ask the public to get in touch with them if they see them on the street.

Finally, mugshots allow the court system to make sure the right person is put on trial. When the defendant shows up in court, the judge can look at the mugshot and confirm that they have not brought in the wrong person to face the charges.

Why You Have The Right To Look At Mugshots

Everyone knows what a mugshot is. Whenever someone famous gets arrested, their mugshot appears on the news nearly immediately. When this happens, people often ask why the police have released the mugshot. We get similar questions from our users asking why the mugshots are available.

We understand the question. After all, mugshots are taken at the time of arrest – which is before the person is convicted of any crime. This makes some people think they should be kept private, since they certainly make it seem like the person in the mugshot is a criminal.

But, the court and legal system look at it differently. A mugshot is considered a public record. That is because it is produced with public tax dollars. It costs money for the camera and the film and the salary of the person who took the mugshot. Because of this, mugshots have been legally deemed a public record.

As soon as something is considered a public record, the government is obligated to make it available to the public. So, when a celebrity is arrested journalists have a right to ask for the mugshot to illustrate the story. In the same vein, when a general member of the public asks for a mugshot, the government has to provide it.

One way of looking at it is that because your tax dollars have paid for the mugshot, you essentially own it, and you are simply asking to look at the property you paid for.