Mug Shot Disclosure Under FOIA: Does Privacy or Public Interest Prevail?

Shephard, Kathryn | October 1, 2013

The United States Marshals Service (USMS) photographs every arrested suspect as part of the booking process. These photographs, called mug shots, are federal government records to which the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applies. Federal appellate courts have disagreed about whether FOIA requires disclosure of these mug shots or whether FOIA Exemption 7(C) applies, allowing the USMS to withhold them as law enforcement records that “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” if released. This Note argues that Exemption 7(C) should shield mug shots from disclosure to the public.