Citing Online Publication and Privacy, Feds Exempt Mugshots From FOIA

Attention State Lawmakers and Staffers,

The United States Government has just closed a loop-hole within the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals by overturning a 1996 ruling that gave the press routine access to federal mugshots. Agreeing with previous decisions by the 10th and 11th circuit courts, a vote of 9-7 concluded that these records do not have to be released under the Federal Freedom of Information Act.PrivatePropertySign

Judge Deborah Cook writes:

“…booking photos need not be released when requested by media under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

She said the internet gives criminal defendants a “non-trivial” privacy interest in their photos, which can stay online for years, that they lacked in 1996, when photos might appear on TV or in print media and then never been seen again.

A disclosed booking photo casts a long, damaging shadow over the depicted individual,” Cook wrote. “In 1996, this court could not have known or expected that a booking photo could haunt the depicted individual for decades. Experience has taught us otherwise.”

However, attorneys representing media outlets have been fighting for access to these photos for decades and hinted at a possible appeal to the supreme court in response to the decision.

We ask that elected state officials acknowledge the clear privacy interests outlined by this court’s latest ruling and continue to introduce legislation to curb the exploitative practice of online commercial mugshot publishing.

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