Behind the mug shots: The stories behind the arrest photos

Behind the mug shots: The stories behind the arrest photos


by GLENN COUNTS / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @GCountsWCNC

Posted on February 14, 2013 at 6:25 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There is nothing funny about jail.  Most people don’t want to go and fewer still are proud about getting locked up.

While jail isn’t funny, humorous moments or pictures are caught on mug shot cameras every day.

"You know they weren’t going to let that pass…You see how big the hair is," said Danielle Davis, who made NBC Charlotte’s dubious list of the 50 most memorable mug shots of 2012.

(Photos: Most memorable Charlotte mugshots of 2012)

Davis landed on the list because of a misunderstanding over her auto insurance and a very bad hair day.

“It is kind of funny when you see it on paper,” Davis said.  “That’s a fool isn’t it?”

Mug shot watching has become the newest form of spectator sport.

“Honestly why do we watch Honey Boo Boo?  Why do we watch true crime shows?  I think it’s kind of human nature to be fascinated by bad behavior," said Dr. Lori VanWallendael, the Associate Chair of UNCC Psychology Department.

"I am not that guy who is being booked over there with that expression on my face.  We always have the sense that somebody's got it worse than I do," Dr. VanWallendael added.

That sentiment might be fueling this trend.  For example, our mug shot section is one of the most popular features on the website and the Slammer has expanded to multiple cities since it came out.

Area jails take tens of thousands of mug shots every year. Mecklenburg County processed 57,000 last year alone.

The goal is to get a boring picture.

"Our goal is to get a normal picture—their eyes open just standing still, no talking, just a plain picture.  I guess them not posing," said Captain Donnie Belk.

Some people have other ideas.  They may not pose, but clearly they don’t take a picture like everyone else and those are the pictures that are immortalized.

Latoya White has been arrested 19 times.  In some pictures, the world appears to be nearing the end.  In others, she looks like she just accomplished her lifelong goal of getting to jail.

Dr. VanWallendael says some people are proud of the notoriety.

"Whether that's having as many friends as possible on your Facebook page or getting on a reality show or getting your mug shot in the Slammer—I guess everyone kind of has their way of feeling ‘Hey, people know who I am,’" noted the psychologist.

Not everyone is looking for that kind of attention.  One woman we talked to didn’t want to be identified.  She has only been arrested once for something minor and ended up in the Slammer and on our website.

"It's kind of embarrassing and it's showing a side of you, again, that really isn't you.  It’s just a situation that happened.  It's over with," said the woman.

The woman was probably picked because of her hair.  It’s a trait she shares with Miss. Davis.

“No, that's a wig I actually got it at home in a bag, too, but I don’t think I'm going to use it again after seeing that picture," said Davis.

If you get arrested and don’t want to make a mug shot lineup someplace, the best advice is don’t look like you have been in a fight, don’t have hair that’s too perfect or messy and don’t look to sad or happy.

Remember, boring often equals invisible.