Ugh, the mugshot. Something I’ve dreaded in life just as much as a background check. I do not know what I hate more; the fact that a mugshot just sits there, lurking, ready to wreak havoc and remind you of your f*** up, or to have your parents sit there, lurking, ready to remind you of your f*** up, as they make comments about your mugshot.

Either way, I was mortified with mine and how fat and bloated I looked in it. To tell you the truth, I was more embarrassed with how terrible my photo was than with what I had done to land me in front of the camera (priorities).

The situation warrants (bad word) the attachment that this is not a beneficial thing to your life. And outside from being a recording artist searching for street credibility, having your mugshot plastered everywhere is a very ugly thing to deal with it and makes one agree…. why do mugshots look so bad?

Why do mugshots look so bad

There are several reasons as to why mugshots are always unflattering and come out looking so bad; this is due in part to poor lighting, the angles at which pictures are taken, the fact that you are possibly under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, and the subsequent emotional state one is put under in that stressful moment of time.

Not helping the matter is the stigma attached to the mugshot, where it is universally recognized as a negative happening in one’s life, where your lapse in judgement is captured for all to see.

More times than not you will see the person with a blank, solemn face as they stare into the camera. Other times you see a look of embarrassment or shame at what they have just done or by the act that was committed, but very rarely do you see any signs of happiness or joy. Ironically, even if one wanted to smile, it is frowned upon.

Can you smile in a mugshot

Yes, you can, as there is no law against it, but you should absolutely not. The police do not like it when people smile for mugshots and will tell you not to. More importantly, your lawyer will tell you not to smile.

The point of a mugshot is to capture an identifiable image, and a neutral face is best for that. When you smile, it looks like you are not taking the gravity of the situation very serious. Furthermore, it will not help you very much in a court of law, as it makes you look like someone who is not remorseful. Appearances really do matter.

Paris Hilton glamour mug shots circa 2006, 2007, 2010 respectively

Why are there mugshots with people smiling then

People get away with smiling in a mugshot for a variety of reasons. Some are intoxicated and/or high, some suffer from mental illness, and some smile because they think their arrest is absurd or the circumstances are funny at the time.

More often than not, officers attest people are happy in a mugshot because the alcohol has not worn off as of yet. Once again, your lawyer would likely advise you that a smiling mugshot can and will be used against you as evidence of your attitude in response to the accusations.

Can you pose for your mugshot

You can try but is highly unadvisable. Most mug shots are two-part, with one side-view photo, and one front-view with the focal point on the face, so posing is relegated to facial expressions. Once again, your attorney would agree for you not to smile in aid of your defense.


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Why do some mugshots have towels

In order to make facial identification easier, law enforcement prefers to use your relaxed face at its most natural appearance (not smiling), and the idea was to focus on the face and not be influenced by other factors, such as clothing, tattoos, and/or marks on the neck and shoulder.

Why do they call it a mugshot

Mugshots began only a few years after the invention of photography in the 18th century and is based off the English slang term for the face, called a “mug”, where a photo is taken of someone, typically after arrest, from the shoulders up, focused heavily on the face.

Why are mugshots taken

Mugshots are photos that are taken allowing law enforcement, victims, and the public at large to identify an individual. Whereas before these photographs were compiled into an actual physical book, named a mugbook, these photos are now entered into a digital database, creating a much faster and broader range in respect to identifying individuals.

Can you refuse a mugshot

If the accused is arrested, they must cooperate with the booking process, as you have to permit your photo to be taken at booking. If you do not, you will be held in place so that it can be taken, and that will probably result in additional charges. Either that, or law enforcement will just wait it out till one acquiesces and complies.

In the old days, failure to do so would result in the person being “forced” to comply.


Yup, the mugshot is certainly a remembrance of a time that you were not thinking so clear and had a lapse in judgement. Put another way, a snapshot capturing when you effed up really good. And face it, we as humans (and especially Americans), have always had a voracious appetite when it comes to someone screwing up, and the subsequent remembrance of that by way of a mugshot.

Actors, musicians, athletes, politicians, judges, and all other truly powerful people are brought to a humble place having to stand there before the camera, and are not immune to the process, as it does not discriminate.

The mugshot has, is and will always be the great equalizer, as it does not have carry any prejudice, and will always be there to remind one of how truly bad they can screw up in their life.

The Educated Felon