*This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.

Code-switching refers to the need for a person to change the way they use different terms based on the setting they’re in. Naturally, people who work in a legal setting, like a courtroom, need to know how to code-switch. Why? Because in a legal setting, common terms take on new and complicated meanings. If a party participating in a legal case can argue their angle convincingly enough, they may be able to change the outcome of that case based on the definition of an otherwise common term.

“Mugshot” is not a term that frequently appears in a courtroom setting. Instead, it describes one part of the booking process that an arrested defendant must undergo. If you’re looking through a PeopleFinders criminal records report, you’ll likely find a mugshot of your subject included in the file (assuming they have a criminal record for you to find, of course). You’ll need to understand what that mugshot represents if you want to make good use of the rest of the data with which you’ve been presented.

What is a Mugshot?

The term “mugshot” informally refers to the part in the criminal booking process where a police officer or other legal officer takes a photo of the person who’s been arrested. The photo will capture the visage of the person in question from the waist up. There are also several versions of this photo taken so that police records can have access to an image of the person from multiple angles. Thanks to mugshots, police officers and other legal officials have been able to identify repeat offenders.

What Does It Mean to Be Processed?

Getting a mugshot taken is part of the booking process. The booking process is a series of actions through which police officers collect a person’s personal information. Using this information, police officers will be able to create a file on the person being taken into custody. That file may help with a future case or can be used to identify the person in question if they are taken in by a separate police department in the future.

What Does the Booking Procedure Look Like?

The booking process usually involves eight steps. These include:

  • Record Keeping – At the start of the booking process, a legal representative or a police officer will collect a person’s personal information. This will include their name, contact information, the crime of which they’re being accused, their height, weight, and other details that may help officers identify them in the future.
  • Mugshot – After personal information has been collected, police officers will take photos of the suspect. These are known as mugshots. Mugshots are normally taken against walls that will indicate the suspect’s height, adding to the already-collected set of data police have on them.
  • Property Confiscation – After a mugshot has been taken, officers will trade a person’s clothing for a jail uniform. The suspect will be required by law to provide officers with their clothing as well as any other personal items they have on them. Police officers will retain these items until the suspect is released, unless they find illegal substances or weapons on the suspect.
  • Fingerprinting – Once dressed, officers will take ink impressions of a suspect’s fingerprints. Suspects must roll their fingers across the applicable paper so that officers can have a full copy of their prints.
  • Full-Body Search – While this step doesn’t always occur, it may if the suspect is accused of a more serious crime. The suspect will be strip searched, meaning that police can conduct more invasive full-body and cavity searches.
  • Warrant Check – Officers will then search their database for any outstanding warrants that may call for the suspect’s arrest in other states or counties.
  • Health Check – Officers will run basic health screenings against subjects to ensure that the subject receives any immediate health care they may need.
  • Incarceration – After all of those steps, the person in question will be placed in a holding cell. Here, they’ll have to wait until they’re able to post bail or until they’re moved to a more secure facility to await trial.

How Does a Booking Procedure End?

The way the booking process ends will depend on the nature of the crime of which the subject has been accused. In the case of misdemeanors or minor infractions, the suspect may be released after receiving a citation and promising to appear in court at a later date. More serious crimes will see the suspect incarcerated until they can afford to pay bail.

What Does It Mean If a Mugshot Appears in a Criminal Records Report?

If you perform a PeopleFinders criminal records check and your subject’s record includes a mugshot, that means that your subject has been through the booking process. You’ll need to read the rest of the presented report closely to understand why your subject was booked, of what they had been accused, and whether or not the issue ever had to be taken to court.