When you get arrested and are booked into jail, there are a number of procedures that you’ll have to go through, one of them being getting your ‘mugshot’ taken. A mugshot, or booking photograph, is the picture that the police take to identify you. Two photos are taken: one full face and one profile. Also, you will be issued a booking number that is included on the mugshot, along with your name.
Where Your Mugshot Can End Up
As well as being kept on file at the jail, your mugshot can end up in any number of places. Your mugshot is a matter of public record and anyone can get a copy of it from the jail database.
- Mugshots are public record.
Quite often, your local newspaper or TV station will use a copy of your mugshot if they report on the crime, and it will be archived in their records online. There are even so called ‘mugshot websites’, such as mugshots(dot)com that specifically post your picture for no other reason than pure entertainment and advertising. A cheap newspaper called ‘The Slammer’, which is sold at gas stations and convenience stores, exists solely to publish a round-up of all local mugshots, often with humorous captions. One of the largest ‘mugshot websites’ in the US is florida.arrests(dot)org, featuring over 4 million pictures. Even if your case was dismissed, your mugshot is still out there, and it could still show up online.
Places Your Mugshot Can Be Posted
- The jail website.
- Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
- In newspapers.
- On TV.
- On ‘mugshot websites’.
- In mugshot newspapers like ‘The Slammer’.
How To Get Your Mugshot Removed
You can try to get your mugshot removed from official sources such as the jail you were booked into, but it can be very difficult. Public records are exactly that – public. Firstly, you will have to file a ‘Petition to Expunge’. Basically, this means that your record is sealed, and removed from public records. Your arrest will still remain on record, but no-one will be able to access the information. Contact the state’s Justice Department, and request the paperwork to file a petition to expunge. Once filed, the department that processed your case will make a decision. This is a lengthy procedure, and a lot of cases will be denied. There are state laws that determine exactly which type of cases can be expunged, and even then, it is down to a judge to make the final decision.
- File a ‘Petition to Expunge’ with the courts to get your mugshot sealed, effectively removing it.
Mugshot Removal Services
There are a number of businesses and online services that offer to get your mugshot deleted from public record, but it can be costly, and not necessarily very effective. One of these companies is RemoveSlander(dot)com. They claim that among other things, they can force Google to remove your picture from their search index. This service will set you back $399. In addition to RemoveSlander, there are a number of websites that offer the same service, ranging in price from $129 (RemoveArrest(dot)com) to $1,250 (hidemymugshot(dot)com). The problem is, none of these companies will let you know exactly what method they use to remove your mugshot, nor can you be sure that they will be 100% successful. Some people say that these mugshot removal services may be directly associated with the mugshot sites, and these people argue that what they’re doing could be considered extortion.
There is a company out there that 100% guarantees that your picture will be removed from all the major search engines: internetreputation(dot)com. They claim that once removed, your digital mugshot will only be available through the jail’s database.
PrisonHandbook.com does not endorse any of the websites or services listed here. We strongly suggest that you do your own additional research into any company that you decide to use, to make sure you know what you are getting. A good place to start would be reading this article from Wired Magazine: Wired Magazine Article on Mugshot Removal Services
Another bit of essential reading on this subject is the story of a Fort Worth, TX man who is working to uncover the connections between the mugshot companies and the mugshot removal services, as well as pushing for changes to the law that would outlaw the posting of mugshots: Fort Worth Weekly
The choice is up to you as to whether you want to use the services of a mugshot removal company, but you should make sure you know who you’re dealing with, and research and consider other options. Another option that may prove just as effective is to hire an attorney to pursue a lawsuit against the websites to get your mugshot removed.
Currently, only a number of states publicly display your mugshot:
- North Carolina
- New Jersey