Can You Find Mugshots Online?

A mugshot is a photograph taken of an offender following their arrest. In most cases, mugshots are taken immediately after the subject of arrest arrives at the police station. 

Generally, mugshots taken by law enforcement agencies, such as federal prisons and the FBI, are considered public domain and are not protected under copyright law. Consequently, mugshots and arrest records are publicly available. If you're concerned about defamation or if you're trying to find someone else's mugshots online, here's where to look.

Visit your state department of corrections website.

You can find your state's department of corrections website by typing ”(your state)” and ”department of corrections” into any search engine. You can also find a directory of the department of corrections websites at

You can then use the state-appropriate inmate locator to find more information about inmates. Depending on the state, you'll be able to find the inmate locator under ”prisoner search,” ”offender search,” ”prisoner locator,” or something similar. Most state inmate locators allow users to search by prisoner number or by name. However, only some states publish mugshots online.

Search your state sex offender registry.

In the United States, every state has an online sex offender registry. You can find your state sex offender registry by typing ”(your state)” and ”sex offender registry” into any search engine. A sex offender registry can help you find mugshots online, even for states that don't normally publish mugshots. 

You can use basic information, such as name or location, to search for an offender. However, if the state has not convicted an individual of a sex offense, their information will not appear in the registry. Additionally, the sex offender registry may publish a limited number of mugshots.

Check local sheriff and police department websites.

If you can't find information through the sex offender registry or the state department of corrections website, try checking your local sheriff and police department websites. Some law enforcement agencies publish mugshots online and allow free public access. However, not all law enforcement agencies make mugshots publicly available.

To search for the offender, you'll need to know the county of their arrest. Enter as much information as you have about the individual, including their name and date of birth, to find their arrest records.

Search the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

In the United States, individuals convicted of federal crimes are held in federal prisons. You can use the Federal Bureau of Prisons website to search for federal inmates. Although this website doesn't provide access to arrest records, it can tell you whether an individual was ever in federal prison, along with when they were released. The Federal Bureau of Prisons websites provides inmate information dating back to 1982.

Use an information lookup site.

Information lookup sites, like GoLookUp, publish background checks, criminal records, mugshots, and arrest records online. GoLookUp's federal inmate database allows users to find information about individuals incarcerated within United States facilities. 

Search results can also return criminal records, arrest records, and mugshots related to a particular inmate. GoLookUp provides unlimited access to background checks, court records, sex offender records, and more. To search for mugshots, simply enter the name of the offender. For instance, if you're searching for Dakota County jail mugshots of John Smith, type ”John Smith” into the search bar.

Mugshots are primarily used for identification by victims and law enforcement. However, arrest records and mugshots can be found in the public domain, and much of what's in a background check is public information. If you're concerned about defamation or privacy violations, reach out to civil litigation lawyers such as Howard Fensterman to discuss your options.