Is Publishing Mugshots Damaging?


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We have all seen our fair share of atrocious mugshots that leave us thinking, wow (and worse). A mugshot is proof that someone has been charged with a crime, but the fact of the shot has absolutely no bearing on the person’s innocence or guilt. When the mugshot was taken, the issue of innocence or guilt remained to be determined, and the person in the mugshot was innocent (unless ultimately proven guilty). This brings into question the ethicality of publishing mugshots.

A Picture Is Worth a 1,000 Words

When you see a mugshot, the picture tells you a story, and that story tends to be a negative one. In other words, a published mugshot tends to push the court of public opinion toward a negative finding – regardless of the specifics of the case. Even if the person in the shot is ultimately found guilty, the act of having his or her mugshot published can have lasting negative effects – the internet, after all, is forever. While mugshots are public records and can, therefore, be published in newspapers and the like, the legality of the matter does not make the practice any less damaging.

News Publications Take Notice

Some news sites have taken the deleterious effects of publishing mugshots into consideration and are no longer engaging in the practice. While mugshots may garner attention and views, some publications are eschewing the shady practice of publishing them just to keep their numbers up. Professional journalism is based on presenting the facts inherent to a story as neutrally as possible, and there is nothing neutral about a published mugshot.

Mugshot Removal Businesses

To make matters worse, there is a vibrant industry known as the mugshot removal business that is able to digitally scrape and gather mugshots from the websites of law enforcement agencies and have them published on their own websites in the work of but a few hours. From here, the mugshot removal businesses exhort those pictured to pay dearly for the service of having their mugshots removed from the business’s website. This industry defends its practices by invoking its First Amendment rights.

Texas Takes a Stance

Texas legislature has called for media groups to voluntarily change their practices related to the publication of mugshots, but it has also taken steps toward regulating mugshot removal businesses. The process of prohibiting a business from publishing any information related to one’s criminal record (including mugshots), however, is complicated and involves the injured party obtaining one of the following:

  • An order of nondisclosure
  • A notice of expunction

You Need an Experienced Attorney on Your Side

If you are facing criminal charges, your rights and your freedoms are simply too important to leave to chance. Attorney Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a dedicated criminal defense attorney who is well prepared to skillfully fight for your case’s best possible resolution. We care about your case, so please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.

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