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Media & Communications Law

10th Circuit Rules Federal Mug Shots Don’t Have to Be Disclosed

Posted Feb 23, 2012 11:42 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal appeals court has ruled that the U.S. government doesn't have to disclose mug shots under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Tulsa World's bid to obtain mug shots of six indicted individuals, according to Josh Gerstein's Blog at Politico and the Tulsa World.

The decision (PDF) by Judge Paul Kelly Jr. rejected the newspaper’s argument that defendants had a diminished privacy interest given the “explosion of camera phones and video which allow persons to be photographed … at any time.”

“This argument cuts against its position,” Kelly wrote. “Given easy access to photographs and photography, surely there is little difficulty in finding another publishable photograph of a subject.”

The 10th Circuit joins the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in finding mug shots are exempt from FOIA. The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has disagreed, leaving a 2-1 circuit split.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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