How Long Are Mugshots Kept on Record?

The length of time that police keep mugshots on files varies by jurisdiction, the type of crime and whether the person arrested is convicted. As part of the official police record of an arrest, mugshots are retained for at least as long as those records.

In some jurisdictions, police regularly purge records of minors, misdemeanor arrests and records for arrests that do not result in convictions. However, the low cost and ease of use of electronic storage has enabled records to be retained much longer, perhaps indefinitely. Some jurisdictions allow records to be sealed after a period of time or allow the defendant to seal the records upon payment of a fee. The mugshot is available to journalists and other parties until the record is sealed or destroyed.

An entire industry based on publishing mugshots online has developed, and these companies frequently charge large fees to take photos down. Courts have upheld the legality of websites to publish these photos in many jurisdictions, but some have prohibited the companies from charging fees to remove photos from the sites.