For those residents of Silver Spring that have been arrested before, they know that the situation is embarrassing and potentially problematic, but if they can clear their names it can often be forgotten. The days of moving on with your life after an arrest may be over, however, after a self-described “trashy tabloid” called Busted started publishing people’s “mug shots” two years ago.
While the paper claims to have nothing but accurate facts, it is very possible that the paper’s phrasing could cause confusion for Maryland residents. Say that you were previously stopped and arrested for an alleged drunk driving offense. You were scheduled a court date, but for some reason you couldn’t go. Even though you weren’t found guilty, you now have a record of failing to appear in a court hearing. If you are stopped again for a minor traffic violation, a Maryland police officer may arrest you for your hearing infraction, but it is very possible that Busted will caption your picture with “drunk driving.”
The publisher believes that he is doing an important public service — deterring crime. According to him, the public humiliation serves as a lesson to would-be criminals and will make them reconsider their actions. On the other hand, many people could be arrested and eventually let go without being criminally charged or able to clear their name in court, but there will still be a published mug shot out there somewhere.
The director of a prominent center for law and media ethics has said that even though mug shots are technically part of the public record, it is different having a newspaper that rounds up these booking photographs and publishes them for the masses. Federal legislators are looking into whether this type of publication is a violation of a person’s privacy.
Source: Pioneer Press, “You got your picture in the paper? Oh, that paper…” Bob Shaw, Feb. 5, 2012