June 24, 2024
The Difference Between Mugshots and Driver’s License Photos

The Difference Between Mugshots and Driver’s License Photos

Does it ever feel like the government takes too many pictures for too many things? Millions of Americans would agree with you, and many of them get a little confused at the reasoning behind different pictures that are taken. Mugshots, driver’s licenses, and many other routine things require for your picture to be taken. But why? What purpose do all of these different pictures serve? Why couldn’t just a single picture do for any purpose? It can come off as a little complicated, especially if this isn’t an area of your expertise, but we’re going to take a look at this topic so you can better understand it.

What is a Driver’s License and Why Does it Need a Picture?

In all 50 states in the United States, you are required to have a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle. Different types of vehicles require different licenses. Most people just have a normal class-c license, but you can also get a license to drive semi-trucks, motorcycles, and even large trucks carrying hazardous materials. This requirement was made into law for public safety reasons. After all, the average car weighs 2,871 pounds and can reach speeds of over 100 miles per hour. That’s dangerous enough without having to worry about people not knowing what they’re doing.

The picture that is taken for your driver’s license photo is meant to identify you if you get pulled over. Law enforcement has to have some way to know that you’re really who you say you are, and your driver’s license acts as an identification card. That’s why most DMVs will ask that you simply arrive looking as close as possible to how you do on any regular day.

Your driver’s license will also list any restrictions for driving that you might have. For example, if you have bad eyesight and need glasses, you would have it listed on your license that you can’t drive without corrective lenses. If you’re prone to seizures, it will probably say that you can’t drive without going six months without a seizure. This information further allows for any law enforcement officers that pull you over to know exactly the conditions of your license, which makes licensing even easier for them to enforce.

What is a Mugshot and Why are They Taken?

Mugshots are different from driver’s license photos. While a driver’s license photo is just a straightforward shot, a mugshot has the person in question facing forward while getting a second shot for a profile. The biggest difference between a driver’s license photo and a mugshot is the reason that they’re taken. A driver’s license photo is taken when you get your license so you can be easily identified when you’re pulled over. A mugshot is taken when you’re arrested and processed into jail.

Mugshots are also used for identification, but it’s a little more important to be able to correctly identify criminals than random drivers. That’s why there are two photos taken of criminals. This practice began after the Prefecture of Paris Police defeated the Paris Commune after the Bloody Week.

There’s a lot of interesting history surrounding the Bloody Week that even involves the Franco-Prussian War, and if that’s the kind of thing that tickles your fancy, you should definitely look more into it. Unfortunately, for the purposes of this article, we simply won’t have time to cover that event in great detail. Just know that this event is where the modern mugshot came from and that pretty much every law enforcement department in the world uses the same method for mugshots at this point in time.

Mugshot pictures are also often used in wanted posters, which is why many states won’t allow mugshots to be used in courts. Many juries associate mugshots with career criminals, and that association makes the defense lawyer’s job especially hard. The court is about winning the minds and hearts of the jury through the facts, and starting off with your client being painted in a negative light can kill your case before it even starts.

Why the Difference Matters

The difference between mugshots and driver’s license photos is stark. While they’re both pictures that are taken by the government for identification purposes, the reason why these pictures couldn’t be more different.

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Most people will never have a mugshot taken. Only 2.8% of adults in the United States have been to jail, which means that a very small minority of people have been to jail in their lives, and thus a small number of people have had their mugshots taken.

On the other hand, 89% of adults have their driver’s license, and 96% of adults have some other form of photo I.D. card. That means that there are a lot more people with driver’s license photos than mugshots, and most of those people will never have a mugshot taken in their life.

The difference is important because of the reason why the pictures are taken in the first place, and that is the biggest reason why the difference is so important. It would be a little strange if you went to the DMV to renew your license and they took mugshots, just like it would be a little strange if someone was arrested and left jail with a new driver’s license. One type of photo simply does not fit the purpose of the other.

Why The Government Finds Identifying Citizens so Important

The government has a lot of different jobs. It has to maintain peace, keep its citizens safe, collect taxes, fund wars, build and maintain infrastructure, educate the masses, the list goes on. The government has so many responsibilities that it can be a little tricky to keep it all straight. Whether or not you believe that they’re doing a good job is up to you, but regardless of your feelings, the government does have work to do to fulfill its side of the social contract.

Much of what happens in our society is based on a social contract, a hypothetical contract that is signed the day that you’re born. The concept was first thought of by a French philosopher by the name of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Like many of the philosophers that inspired the founding fathers, Rousseau was an enlightenment-era thinker, and he had some ideas of how society should work.

The social contract, in short, is the belief that in order for a society to exist, everyone that lives within it must sign a contract with the people in charge. The people in charge, in our case, the government, have their side of the deal to hold up, and the people have their responsibilities. This symbiosis is what allows the government to continue its existence. According to the social contract, in order for any government to have power over its people, the people must accept that the government has any sort of power.

Now, the reason why being able to identify people easily is so important to the government is so that the government can easily punish those that are not upholding their end of the bargain. For instance, if you’re driving down the street doing 80 miles per hour in a school zone, you’re not holding up your end of the bargain. In that instance, your driver’s license would act as a way to identify you and punish you for creating unsafe conditions for any children that could potentially be wandering around the street outside of the school.

The same can be said about mugshots. Mugshots are exclusively taken of people that have broken their end of the social contract and are in the process of being punished for it. The government side of the social contract is to have a fair trial before sentencing anyone to imprisonment, so the mugshots serve as an interim identification tactic between the defendant being arrested and put on trial for their crimes.

There are other instances where the government expects to be able to easily identify you. For instance, passports are a required form of identification if you’re planning to leave the country. Many states are now expecting a form of advanced I.D. to even allow you to board a plane.

Learning the Difference Between Forms of Identification can Make Your Life a Lot Easier

There are many forms of identification provided by the government. Mugshots, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, social security cards, passports, death certificates, the list goes on. Learning the difference between these types of identification and what they’re used for can make your life significantly simpler and can make producing the right kind of identification for the occasion a lot easier. Whether you’re driving down the street or applying for a loan, the right identification will make the process move a lot more smoothly.

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