Posted on Jun 26, 2003 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 03-09
June 26, 2003
Police Department Mug Shots

In OIP Opinion Letter Number 94-12, the OIP opined that a Hawaii Police Department mug shot must be made available for public inspection and copying under the Uniform Information Practices Act (Modified), chapter 92F, Hawaii Revised Statutes (“UIPA”). Thereafter, the Honolulu Police Department asked the OIP to address related issues concerning the disclosure of mug shots. The OIP opined as follows.

When an arrest is expunged, there is no longer any public record of the arrest. The OIP determined that Police Department mug shots of arrests that have been expunged by order of the Attorney General are protected from public inspection and copying under section 92F-13(4), Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”). Nevertheless, the UIPA does not authorize the withholding of access to mug shots due to the possibility that an expungement order may be obtained in the future.

Chapter 846, HRS, which covers disclosure of criminal history record information, does not restrict the disclosure of mug shots if the arrest is less than one year old, if active prosecution of the charge remains pending, or if a conviction results. Juvenile records can only be disclosed as authorized by section 846-12, HRS.

If the mug shot is disclosable, state identification numbers and dates of arrest contained on mug shots are to be disclosed as well.

Mug shots cannot be categorically withheld from public access based on considerations that disclosure would place an individual in physical danger or reveal a part of a confidential investigation.

Likewise, public disclosure of mug shots cannot be withheld based on concerns that an arrested person’s mug shot could lead to the inadmissibility of the results of a photographic or other lineup identification procedure.

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