Court Reverses 20-Year Decision on Open Booking Photos

According to a report in Gongwer, a divided 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 20-year-old decision that required federal criminal booking photos automatically be released on request. The judges argued that releasing those photos violate a “non-trivial privacy interest” defendants have in those booking photos.

Booking photos convey an image of guilt, the court held in Detroit Free Press v. U.S. Department of Justice (USCOA docket No. 14-1670), though a defendant may not be found guilty. The ability to easily find a booking photo online can have a dramatic effect on an individual’s ability to find work and their personal prospects, judges ruled in the final decision.

The dissent argued that “the court’s decision obscures government’s most coercive functions – the powers to detain and accuse – and returns them to the shadows. Open government is too dear a cost to pay for the mirage of privacy the majority has to offer.”

A challenge to this ruling would require that a petition for hearing be submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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