Mugshot of man

Mugshots: The Details

People who are arrested and charged with a crime must go through a lengthy process that starts from the moment the individual is suspected of wrongdoing. This process is the same whether the person is guilty or innocent.

The criminal justice system and the courts have built this process up slowly over the course of many decades to arrive at what is in existence today. The process of being arrested, posting bail, going to trial and then potentially being punished for a crime can be confusing and stressful. One part of the process that few people enjoy is getting a mugshot.

Mugshots were first used around the middle of the 19th century. Mugshots are officially taken photographs of people arrested for a crime. The picture often contains the name of the person, a booking number and a plain background that does not interfere with the individual. The first mugshots were used for two reasons. The first is so that officials in a prison would be able to positively know and identify prisoners. The second was for police, lawyers and other investigators to show to witnesses for identification purposes so that the defendant could remain in jail. A later and still current use of mugshots is to show the public when a person escapes from jail or commits another crime later.

A small amount of controversy regarding mugshots exists especially in the criminal justice community and among lawyers who defend the rights of people convicted of a crime. The reality is that a mugshot is rarely ever flattering to the defendant. Some mugshots are taken while the individual is disheveled, injured or intoxicated. Showing this mugshot to jurors, witnesses and even other lawyers could potentially sway opinions unfairly. This is why some people advocate attempting to do everything possible like smiling and cleaning up before a mugshot in order to appear more like a normal individual instead of a crazed criminal.

Mugshots are usually taken during the booking process. The mugshot is usually done along with other methods of recording identity such as taking fingerprints or collecting genetic material in some areas. The defendant is then taken to jail. The person will stay incarcerated until the criminal trial unless bail is posted. Bail is an amount set by the courts or a schedule that can be paid to allow the defendant to leave jail. If the amount is high, then a bail bond agency can be used. These agencies will take a small percentage of the bail amount as payment and then put up the rest. The defendant will be free to go in this case. All the defendant has to do is appear for every court date on time. If the defendant does not, then a bench warrant could be issued.

Mugshots have been commercialized lately causing a stir among people arrested by police. Many sites have popped up offering databases of mugshots that the public can use. Some sites charge a fee while others make money off advertising. This idea is currently controversial. Mugshots have been useful to law enforcement in the past and are likely to remain a staple of the booking process.

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