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Federal Court Rules That Publication Of Mugshots Does Not Violate U.S. Constitution According To LawMark

NEW YORK, Oct. 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- On October 18, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona issued a resounding and unequivocal victory for publishers who post mugshots on their websites according to In Jamali v. Maricopa County, et al., No. 2:13-cv-00613-DGC (9th Cir. Oct. 21, 2013), the federal Court flatly rejected an arrestee's claims that the publication of his mugshot violates his Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Ninth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, the Court thoroughly rejected any possibility that the arrestee could even hope to identify a valid federal claim against publishers based on the publication of his mugshot, saying "The Court is satisfied that Plaintiff cannot plead a federal claim and that further amendments would be futile. The Court accordingly will not grant him leave to amend."  

The complete and utter dismissal of the argument that an arrestee's Constitutional rights are somehow violated by the publication of his or her mugshot by private publishers is a welcome development. Publishers have long argued that the publication of a person's official mugshot does not violate the person's Constitutional rights, so it is gratifying that a federal court has finally ruled on the matter and validated what publishers have been saying for years. Remarkably, not only did the Court dismiss the arrestee's claims, but it also barred him from attempting to assert any further claims in the future since the Court ruled that it would be an exercise in futility because the publication of a person's mugshot simply does not violate any Constitutional rights.      

The Plaintiff in the case was arrested on October 4, 2010 by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in Arizona. Upon his arrest, his mugshot was taken as part of the standard booking process. It was then posted on the Sheriff's Office official website and republished by private publishers on a variety of other websites. The Plaintiff sought "compensatory, consequential, and punitive damages" as well as "both temporary and permanent injunctions against" the Sheriff's Office and private publishers from using "images, names, and other personal information taken pursuant to his arrest."

In denying all of his claims, the Court agreed with Maricopa County's position that "Plaintiff has no basis in law to maintain any claims under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, or Ninth Amendments." After briefly reviewing relevant U.S. Supreme Court case law, the Court easily dismisses the Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim. The Court then quickly dispenses with his Fifth Amendment argument citing an earlier case and noting, "Use of information seized incident to arrest should 'not be unduly restricted upon any fanciful theory of constitutional privilege.'"   

The Court then turns its attention to the Plaintiff's Eight Amendment claim that the publication of his mugshot amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The court points out that he does not cite any authority to even suggest that the publication of his mugshot is cruel and unusual punishment. On the contrary, the Supreme Court "has held that information relating to a person's arrest may be publicized without violating" a person's Constitutional rights, according to the Court.

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