When you are arrested, the public generally does not see your mug shot. But could they? And how? These are questions courts in Massachusetts are considering. How much information does the public see about you when after an arrest?
What is a booking photo?
When you are arrested, police take a picture of you at the police station called a booking photograph or a mug shot. The police use this photo to identify you. It is the same photo that you see in the police report.
Why do police take booking photos?
The original purpose of booking photos was to allow police and other interested parties a way to identify people arrested and accused of crimes. However, in many states where police reports are public records, third party websites will pull booking photos from police databases and publish them on websites. Often they charge money to remove them.
Even though a mug shot does not mean you are guilty, people often think they are. This is not the case. Everybody is innocent until proven guilty. We don't want anyone thinking we are if we are not, and if we are guilty, we certainly don't need a mugshot of our guilt remaining online.
Consequently, having your booking photo on a third party website could be very damaging to your reputation and future. Many times people can see these photos by doing a simple Google search. Even if you are acquitted or your charges are dismissed, your photo could still be on the Internet.
How private is my booking photo?
Some states like California and New Jersey have already changed their laws to do something about mugshot privacy concerns. Right now, Massachusetts’s highest court is trying to answer the question of how public or private your booking photo is.
The court is looking at two cases. In one, a Boston Globe reporter wanted to access booking photos and police reports for law enforcement officers arrested for driving under the influence. In the other, another Globe reporter wanted access to large quantities of data stored by the District Attorney’s office on things like the races, dispositions, and other information on defendants.
How will the law on mug shots change?
The rulings on these important cases could change how easy or hard it is for the public to see your information after an arrest. These changes will have a major impact on your privacy and the websites that may try to use your booking photo.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN ARRESTED, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.