Spoiler alert: Your booking shot will follow you, even if charges don’t.
Sarasota Magazine by David Hackett
July 26, 2017
When golfer Tiger Woods was arrested in late May for DUI, it was hard to tell what got more attention, details of Woods found by police at 3 a.m. asleep behind the wheel of a battered S65 Mercedes-Benz in Jupiter, Florida, or the mugshot of Woods, hair disheveled, eyes drooping, mouth sinking into a double chin, looking anything but the smiling champion of legend.
Snarks had a feeding frenzy. “Tiger Woods hasn’t won anything in years, unless you count his victory in the ‘Scariest Police Mug Shot’ contest,” wrote San Francisco sports columnist Scott Ostler. One of the thousands of comments on Twitter asked: “Does Nick Nolte give Tiger Woods the jacket when he is inducted into the Mugshot Hall of Fame? Or does Pee-wee Herman do the honors?”
But lest one snicker too much, remember this: It could happen to you. I recently visited the booking area of the Sarasota County Jail, where upwards of 200 people are processed every week. Many are later convicted of crimes. Others are acquitted. But except for several notable exceptions, they’re all required to look into the camera for mugshots that, in some cases, will become the most enduring images of their lives, including being one of the first things about them that appears on an internet search.
“It will follow you around, that’s for sure,” says Sheriff’s Office Major Jeff Bell, who oversees the jail operations and is known as “The Warden.”
Not every mugshot is made public. The list of exemptions “is all over the fricking map and growing,” says Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee. It includes not only current law enforcement officers, but former ones, as well as current and former firefighters, paramedics and employees with the Department of Financial Services, among others. The head of the law enforcement agency involved in the arrest can release at his or her discretion people who fall under the exemption category. But Petersen argues it is not in the public’s interest to shield, for example, former officers arrested for serious crimes. [READ MORE]