FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Detroit Free Press petitions SCOTUS on mugshots

Allan BlutsteinComment

Mug Shots Are Not Secret Records, Detroit Paper Tells Supreme Court

New petition urges justices to reverse Sixth Circuit ruling that exempts booking photos from FOIA.

By Marcia Coyle,  The Nat'l Law J., Dec. 2, 2016

The Detroit Free Press is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a court decision that restricts public access to the mug shots of federal criminal defendants.

Booking photos provide an "important window" into the government's exercise of its police powers, the media outlet said in its petition in Detroit Free Press v. U.S. Department of Justice.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in July ruled that Congress intended to exempt mug shots from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act because of "possible embarrassment and the existence of the internet."

The full Sixth Circuit, in its 9-7 decision, said booking photos fell within an exemption of the public-records law that allows law enforcement records to be kept secret if public disclosure “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invocation of personal privacy.”

Read more here.