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Smile: You’ve been arrested

May 23, 2013
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“Police mug shot” is a slang term widely used to describe the photograph that authorities take after arresting a suspect and booking that person on a charge. This practice provides law-enforcement agencies with a photographic record that facilitates identification. This week’s issue: Should news websites routinely publish “mug shots” as many news organizations do? Why or why not?

The debate — fairly one-sided in that it is loudly defended on the part of powerful publishers — is heard throughout journalism circles and sometimes carried out among citizens, too. News organizations attempt to justify the practice by noting that mug shots are part of the public record; that many people are interested in crime news; and that publishing mug shots is providing a public service.

And you can find the mug shots on other websites; often, a local sheriff’s office website will post that information. In Collier and Lee counties, for example, Internet users can search a database.

An arrest and booking on a charge doesn’t mean a person is guilty. Sometimes, charges are dropped or changed during the judicial process.

So, should news organizations routinely publish each person’s police mug shot when it becomes available through a database of arrests?

What do you think? Reply below by 7 p.m. Monday, May 27. (Yes, it’s a holiday, but you have plenty of time to reply before then.)

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. Jesse Namour permalink
    May 25, 2013 1:47 pm

    I believe there are advantages and disadvantages of this practice. One advantage is that it does serve a public service by allowing people to know who was arrested and on what charges. If I had a neighbor that was arrested for a crime I would want to search the internet to see what the charges were. On the other hand these mugshots invade the personal privacy and reveal the identity of people who may not be guilty of any crime. Often times, their charges are dropped or changed however, their photograph remains on public record. One of the greatest concerns about having these news organizations publish these mugshots online is that views assume guilt before a conviction is even found. There are also websites (like “www.whoisarrested.com”) that post these photos with a public search engine and then charge people a large sum of money to have their photos removed. Because of this, I think that arrest records should not be publicly posted on the internet unless a guilty conviction is found.

  2. Victoria Trujillo permalink
    May 25, 2013 8:39 pm

    This is a topic I am on both sides for. We the people have the right to know if someone has been charged with a crime because life takes turns for the worst sometimes. If we think our life is in danger by someone else’s, we have the right to defend ourselves. In today’s time, we need to be more careful with who we meet and who we live around.

    On the other hand, if a person is innocent but their image is still plastered around the news, it makes life a living hell for them. Even if their name is clear, there will always be other people out there who remember their faces. This I know to be true because back in ’04, my father was charged with a crime (Not murder or anything of that sort), but when you google his name, the first image on the search is HIS mug shot. He’s been clear of the charges now but it’s his privacy that is the show to everyone else.

    Though if I had to choose a side, I would need to go pro on this. I would rather see the faces of the people who have been charged (Guilty or innocent) because there is a 50/50 chance that problem MIGHT come your way if you get involved with someone with a mug shot. I’m not saying you will have trouble with everyone with a mug shot but karma might just be around the corner. News is out there to inform us for our safely, we have the right to see the faces of these people.

    We hear stories about how innocent people are being held guilty while the guilty run free. Until our American system is perfect, we, the people, have the right to know.

  3. Sam Geller permalink
    May 26, 2013 2:15 pm

    The ability to view someones charges that they have aquired through breaking the law is the consequence they face. Everybody knows that when you break the law that if you are arrested your information of the arrest becomes public. Employers and neighboors have a right to know your past experiences with breaking the law. Thats why its called a criminal record. Even though it is making something people might belive to be personal open to the public, that is why it is stressed to not break the law. The record of the arrest being made open to the public is just another consequence that comes with breaking the law. So i do belive peoples criminal records should be routinley published for the public.

  4. Evan Nader permalink
    May 26, 2013 7:12 pm

    In my opinion, this question cannot warrant a yes or no answer. I would say that, depending on the situation, it is appropriate to release an individual’s police mug shot. My original answer to the blog was no, mug shot’s should not be published until all the facts and truth are discovered. I myself was once arrested on a disturbing the peace charge, only to have been found not guilty. The process took a couple weeks and the bills added up, but it was rewarding to be proven guilty and not look like a criminal. Had I seen my picture on the 6 o’clock news I would have been embarrassed and devastated. When a serious crime is committed, though, there is no doubt in my mind that the public should be aware of what that person looks like. This is a tough question between two extremes, but for the most part I’d say publishing the picture is tolerable. It’s just too bad those most pictures published are those of Amanda Bynes and Lindsay Lohan rather than real criminals.

    • Evan Nader permalink
      May 26, 2013 7:13 pm

      In my opinion, this question cannot warrant a yes or no answer. I would say that, depending on the situation, it is appropriate to release an individual’s police mug shot. My original answer to the blog was no, mug shot’s should not be published until all the facts and truth are discovered. I myself was once arrested on a disturbing the peace charge, only to have been found not guilty. The process took a couple weeks and the bills added up, but it was rewarding to be proven not guilty and not look like a criminal. Had I seen my picture on the 6 o’clock news I would have been embarrassed and devastated. When a serious crime is committed, though, there is no doubt in my mind that the public should be aware of what that person looks like. This is a tough question between two extremes, but for the most part I’d say publishing the picture is tolerable. It’s just too bad those most pictures published are those of Amanda Bynes and Lindsay Lohan rather than real criminals.

  5. Keira White permalink
    May 26, 2013 9:53 pm

    I believe that the release of a mug shot is absolutely necessary. Personal safety is a number one concern to many Americans, me included, and I would want to know if a criminal is living down the street from me. Sometimes waiting for the justice system to take it’s course in deciding whether or not someone is guilty just takes too long. I want to be informed immediately about potential threats. Mostly the mug shots that get put on the news or in newspapers are people who are believed to have committed major offenses, which is completely okay in my view. I also believe if I want to look up something minor, I should have the right to go online and check it out. As for those who are arrested and then proven innocent, it is unfortunate that everyone can continue to see their mugshot, but thats how it has to be for the community to feel safe.

  6. Cantrella Canady permalink
    May 26, 2013 10:19 pm

    My initial reply to this post was “yes, these photos SHOULD be published”. However, I began to think about all the times I’ve gone to the aforementioned sites to search for photos “just for fun” and saw my family, my friends, pastors, teachers, and others. My fun quickly morphed into sadness. I’m not quite sure what kind of fun I was looking for at the time but to see the photos of tear-stained faces or anger captured at one of the lowest points of their lives sobered me up. I felt bad that it was so easy to peak into their not-so-discrete closets. I know that not all of them were innocent but there were quite a few cases that were accidents, mistakes, and things that weren’t their faults. I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that freeze frame of shame being used by news organizations to sell a story, especially stories that are not related to the reason why the mug shot was captured in the first place. I believe that the only time mugshots should be used in media is if the person is a possible threat to the public. In that case, the public needs to see a face to put with a name. Otherwise, I don’t think flashing a mugshot of someone arrested for jaywalking years beforehand is called for.

  7. Karli Gomes permalink
    May 27, 2013 9:02 am

    Personally I believe that the new should be able to do whatever they want with public records. It would almost be impossible to tell someone they cannot public something that is already available to the community with just a simple click of a mouse on the internet. I believe that the community has a right to know whose been charged with unlawful actions. However, I understand that charges can be dropped or changed, but I believe that the human race should be mature enough to realize that that can happen. So, I believe that the new should be able to public mugshots.

  8. May 27, 2013 11:45 am

    Yes, I believe that news organizations should be able to publish a person’s police mug shot when it becomes available through a database of arrests. In the last few years, the Internet has become so advanced that people can go to an online database to look up whether someone has a police mug shot or not. I also believe that it should not matter whether these organizations are newspapers, news media outlets or news websites. This is a part of the freedom of press that we enjoy in America. Today, Consumers also have the chance “Open the freezer” and determine a person’s status.

    The purpose of the mug shot is to allow law enforcement to have a photographic record of the arrested individual to allow for identification by potential victims, witnesses and investigators. When I see a police mug shot, I immediately think that this person has broken the law and they also don’t deserve the right to stay anonymous from the public seeing or viewing them. I do believe though that this person has committed a crime and should be punished for their action if proven guilty of committing a crime. I also believe that if the person who gets arrested feels guilty, embarrassed and shameful that they committed a crime, perhaps they won’t do it again in the future. However, I also understand that this person has not gone through a trial to prove their guilt or innocence. I remember when Reese Witherspoon was recently arrested for disorderly conduct; also that she felt embarrassed about what she said to police during the arrest of her and her husband Jim Toth during that took place during a traffic stop in Atlanta, Georgia.

    Sometimes it can be very helpful and useful to see who the suspect is, especially when they may be released from custody soon and can be troublesome in the neighborhood where you live. I also believe that the publication of mug shots is a necessary and important way for the consumer to be alert to dangerous criminals. In some cases, a police mug shot can help out an investigation. If someone recognizes a mug shot, they can call police and tell them valuable information about the person being questioned or interrogated by police. One of my favorites quotes that I like to use is “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

    • May 27, 2013 4:15 pm

      The first during after Jim Toth shouldn’t be there and I feel sorry and enbarrassed at myself!

  9. Andrea Voynovich permalink
    May 27, 2013 12:18 pm

    I believe that having a mug shot available as public record is a consequence that people face when they put themselves into that position. The mug shot is a part of the public record and we have a right to see it is the argument that most people give and I have to agree with that. If the person is later found not guilty or if the charges are dropped the picture should then be removed from the record because the charges are no longer valid. A possible way to correct this from being available forever is to use our current technology to automatically delete the picture from the database if the charges have been dropped or the person found not guilty.

  10. Stephanie Rieselman permalink
    May 27, 2013 12:30 pm

    Like most of the comments below, I am on the fence for this issue. I feel that mug shots are public record already and can be seen by anyone if they choose to look it up, so why shouldn’t news websites be able to publish them? If someone commits a crime, it is our right as citizens to be able to find out what crime has been committed. Then again, I can see the other side of this argument as well. This can also be an invasion of privacy and brings about unnecessary attention to a person that they already may not want on them. This is especially unethical if the crime turns out to be false, and they are freed of the charge. In conclusion, I feel this issue doesn’t necessarily warrant a yes or no answer.

  11. TessaSteele permalink
    May 27, 2013 1:01 pm

    Newspapers have the right to publish these pictures but I don’t believe they should in most cases. I really don’t have a problem with them doing it in the case of celebrities where their life is very publicly available and it isn’t going to be damaging to their career or personal life but for private citizens I believe it is very damaging and skews public opinion of them. In court rooms defendants charged are taken out of handcuffs before going in front of the jury because it gives a connotation of guilt; these pictures do the same thing. When these pictures are posted on the internet they are hard to get taken down. I know personally. You have to wait for the proceedings to be over and send a case number to each individual site hosting the image. If I were a reporter I would think about the bias these pictures provide and the harm to the individual before I would publish them. It would be more fair to use a picture of the person in question that isn’t a mugshot. You may think the mugshot could provide details into the day or night in question but really it’s unfair because you probably will look guilty in a mugshot. The officers taking them aren’t very nice and when mine was taken I was thinking about how my friends mom was going to see it and how embarrassed I would be even though my arrest was a mistake (it does happen). When my friend tried to smile in hers the officers made her retake the picture. If I was a reporter I’d try to find a picture that describes the person in question closer to what is the reality of who they are rather than use a picture that connotes guilt.

  12. Chad Nicholas permalink
    May 27, 2013 2:02 pm

    I believe that news organizations should not publish each person’s police mugshot when it becomes available unless the crime is considered violent such as robbery, manslaughter, or even a DUI. People make mistakes from time to time and should not have to worry about their record being looked and frowned upon over a stupid mistake in their life when applying for a job.

  13. Christopher Larsen permalink
    May 27, 2013 2:09 pm

    Although charges may be dropped, I think that the media still has the right to post the mug shot of the accused. Although it may seem unnecessary for most people to see the mug shot, it is still in the public interest to see what the person currently looks like. There are currently papers that can be bought at the local gas station with nothing but mug shots in it. They also have sections like “Hottest Girl” in it. Although papers like this are simply for entertainment and may humiliate the arrested, they still have the right to show the public the most recent photos of the accused.

  14. Alex Musil permalink
    May 27, 2013 4:13 pm

    I had a difficult time answering this week because at first I stood firmly that they should not be seen because the mug shots give the feeling of guilt even before a trial ever commences. I know if i had seen someone I knew with a mug shot up, sadly I might view that person differently. However, I did try to find some benefits to the pictures being public and I could only see them as humiliation and entertainment. To me they give the sense of being inappropriate and pointless for the public to see.

  15. farrahmpenc1101 permalink
    May 27, 2013 4:23 pm

    Surprising statistics show that eighty percent of all homes have at least one sex offender within a mile radius (Leecountysherriff.org). In order to ensure the citizens’ safety, it is important to raise awareness of criminal offenses in the local area. Criminal records are public records, so every perpetrator is subject to the publication of their mug shot on a news site. While this enhances awareness and safety to some, it also has quite the opposite effect to others. One’s job opportunities and even current employment can easily be jeopardized due to something like public intoxication from their wild college years. Does this justification call for endangering the common citizen’s safety though? I think not, but the situation is not black and white. As there are valid points on each side of the argument, a compromise would be most promising. I suggest that news sites should post and update felony records, but leave out those with misdemeanor charges. Whereas I do not want to live next door to a sex offender, I generally do not think those who commit a misdemeanor are a threat to society.

  16. Carlos Lopez permalink
    May 27, 2013 4:33 pm

    I have a split opinion on this topic. While arrests and mugshots are classified as being of the public record, the use of those records determines how the press may take advantage of their unhindered access. I think that the press should release mugshots, when the appearance of the person is relevant to public knowledge; as in providing the mugshot of an alleged kidnapper, who happens to have a mugshot from a previous offense on record. The mugshot of this person may help the public identify the suspect and bring her to justice. However, if there happens to be a robbery and the press would like to show the mugshot of the person involved, then they may be excessive in doing so. To sum it up, the public nature of mugshots should only be used for the instrumental purpose of identification.

  17. May 27, 2013 4:47 pm

    Newspaper should wait until the person is proven guilty of the charges. In our judical system one is innocence until proven guilty. These pictures have the ability to destory someone’s life whether guilty or not. The arrests are already public record, but the newspaper brings the arrest to the public’s attention. To me its just a matter of respect that everyone deserves.

  18. Mallory Steele permalink
    May 27, 2013 4:52 pm

    I believe mug shots are necessary when that individual breaks any sort of law. Law enforcements do this action in putting a face to a name to keep the public informed on how this individual broke the law and may of caused harm to the community. Mug shots are a way for individuals to own up to their actions and strive to stay out of trouble, in order to keep their face out of the mug shot magazines in local gas stations and grocery stores. However in many of these magazines they tend to criticize and humiliate them off of only their pictures and physical appearance, I do not condone this. We all make mistakes I just believe some may be luckier at not getting caught them others.

  19. Ryan KAUFMAN permalink
    May 27, 2013 5:28 pm

    I agree with Jesse Namours’ analysis. What private companies are doing with public records is undoubtedly disadvantageous. Because these pictured are published for the public good we must realize the day and age we live in. While a criminal record is something legal for employer’s to discriminate against a simple arrest can hold similar consequences.
    This is not serving the community as it claims to intend to. I feel that also companies that profit of public records in anyway is extremely immoral and should be struck down in future legislation. Individuals pictured are accused not found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I do agree with the practice of mug shots but I believe that releasing all pictures is irresponsible seeing that conviction is nowhere near inevitable.

  20. May 27, 2013 5:50 pm

    I do not take issue with publishers posting mug shots. I believe the purpose of maintaining these photographic databases is to allow for law enforcement and the public to inform themselves and, in some cases, prevent future problems.

    For example, the FBI uses mug shots when posting the “most wanted” in hopes of the public aiding in finding dangerous individuals. Is it a form of public shaming? It is. But what is the purpose of jailing someone? It is to punish them for breaking the law. Are all laws just and right? In my eyes no. But until law makers and the public can plead their case exactly why certain laws need to be overturned it is the responsibility of law enforcement to uphold the law.

    The process of booking and documenting what an individual looks like is a necessity. However, depending on the picture itself and the demeanor of the individual in the picture and the crime the are accused of committing, the public opinion of that individual’s case, if high profile and highly visible, can definitely be swayed in one way, or another.

    What it comes down to: mug shots are posted as a public service to others to track accused offenders. I believe it would be more responsible to release a mug shot only after the court has found an individual guilty. Until then, the agencies responsible for cataloging these pictures should file them as “pending”. If it is found a law agency is fairly certain an individual has committed a crime but never convicted prior, however there is a photo on record, then in cases where public safety is an issue they can post them mug shot.

  21. Emery Ramaswami permalink
    May 27, 2013 5:55 pm

    In theory the news sites should post the mug shots because it is news and they are treating everyone that is arrested with equality, because they are not selecting whose mug shots to put up. I however do not think that this should be done just with everyone that is arrested. Because of the presumption of innocence that is declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights people are “innocent until proven guilty”, and this is how I feel that news sites should treat the mugshots that they get from their local police stations. They should wait to post the mugshots given to them until the people are proven guilty in a court of law. I feel this way because I have seen a few people I know that have gotten arrested and been put on these sites, however with further investigation into their cases they had little or no relation to the crime and were proven innocent. Unfortunately their mugshots will remain on the websites despite the fact that they are innocent, which in many cases can tarnish reputation in the community and potentially make it much harder to get a job. So I do still think that the news sites should put up mug shots of people, however they should wait till the person is verified as guilty in a court of law. Although this might require more effort, it will save many people from humiliation and allow the mugshot postings to be put along with the crime that was known to be committed. This will also take much of the comedic element out of the postings of mug shots, which I feel is a big problem with the current posting of mug shots.

  22. Emma Hoelscher permalink
    May 27, 2013 5:59 pm

    While there is obvious support to both sides of this issue, I do not think that mug shots should be published until the arrested person in tried and convicted in a court of law. While many arrests are warranted and with good reason, all US Citizens are presumed innocent until proven guilty, why should journalists put their freedom of speech above the citizen’s right to privacy? Whatever punishment their crimes have been made deserved of them, public humiliation is not one of them and especially not before a proven conviction. As a country and as a society, America was founded on a certain set of principles, a certain set of values. To publish images of arrest or even a police mug shot would be to breach the rights of the citizen and to go against the idea of a fair trial giving possibility to the public being swayed into believing one thing or another that may or may not be true. While it is important to know what registered offenders are in the area or who to look out for before hiring someone to polish your jewelry, people should not have to be victimized or humiliated by journalists looking for the next big scoop for their next issue on the drama of other peoples’ lives. People should not be prejudiced and forced to have their reputations tarnished by incidents in which they are not guilty of just because of a premature publishing of a police mugshot. Publishing an innocent persons’ misfortunes is impinging not only on the citizens’ right to privacy, but also on their future and their families as well.

  23. jackie permalink
    May 27, 2013 6:00 pm

    I believe that people should always take responsibility of their actions and have to deal with the consequences even if that means it becomes known to the public. As for celebrities, I would think they would want to be more cautious of what they do because having a mugshot can have a very negative effect that can carry on for the rest of their lives. People should always be aware of who is breaking the law, it might even be someone close to them such as a neighbor who you would never know or think was a criminal. I know I would deffinetely want to be able to see the faces who are behind these certain crimes.

  24. Nic Tavel permalink
    May 27, 2013 6:19 pm

    In my opinion, news publishing mugshots would be a waste of ink, money and paper. If anyone is interested on knowing who did what and when they should go online and search it themselves.

    Printing it on the newspaper would alienate the members of the society who appear in this section. People would judge them, discriminate them and even take “justice” into their own hands if they go the extra mile. If someone’s mugshot is available every day to everyone through an information source with a high availability and high readers rate as the newspaper they would not be able to get jobs, or to go out in public, or even date other individuals.

    If someone really wants to know about the crimes and the law breakers, they can go online and look for themselves without bothering the rest of society.

  25. Kelsey Nunn permalink
    May 27, 2013 6:27 pm

    I do not believe that they should post mugshots on news media websites. I believe for people that just browse through the news would see that a person got arrested for something, and would believe them to be guilty, but would not doing any further research, so they wouldn’t know if charges were dropped, ect. I do however think if a person gets ruled guilty of a crime its okay to publicize it, but not before than. Publicly announcing someone getting arrested could ruin someones career, or other aspects of there life, even if they arent guilty of the crime. In my opinon if someone wants to see who got arrested they can go on the databases available to see this, it doesnt have to be in the news for every uninterested person to view. I also think that someones mug shot being in the news can alter the decision of whether someone is innocent or guilty, because of a certain picture in a newspaper.

  26. Wyatt Blatt permalink
    May 27, 2013 6:54 pm

    I do infact believe that they should post mugshots for the public to see. I believe it is a huge tool for the public because it allows us to see people that we may see and know everyday and really get an understanding on how they really are. My 12th grade math teacher told me ” A persons TRUE identity isn’t what they show to people, but what they do when no ones looking.” I do also believe it should be allowed for the public to use because if I am an owner of a company I want to know who it is that I am hiring and not base it off of what I saw in the interview. But, I feel it is a key reason to allow the public to view the mugshots is because there are always confusions over names. Lets say that someone named John Johnson was arrested for DUI and I know someone named John Johnson, without the mugshot I wouldn’t know if that was him or not and could cause many problems in the future. The mugshot uses are being blown out of proportion, but it does play a huge factor in public services.

  27. Blake Davis permalink
    May 27, 2013 6:58 pm

    The media is allowed to use any and all tools that they have at their disposal to publish stories; as they are public records, booking photographs fall under this category and their use should not be limited so long as they remain as such. A photograph is a powerful tool that can convey a great deal of information in mere seconds. A glamour shot of Miss Lohan is not going to convey any signs of distress and prompt a further investigation of the article so that one may be informed that she may or may not have crashed her car and then forgotten her cocaine in the damaged vehicle. That being said, the media is responsible for policing itself, at the risk of its own credibility for each and every image and word which it chooses to publish. However, to hold the media solely responsible for the reception of its conveyance would be ludicrous; it is the public’s responsibility to understand that a booking photograph means nothing more that that an individual has been arrested and then booked at a police station; it is not an indication of guilt, but of inquiry into a suspected guilt.

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