Press Release
November 22, 2011

By Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago

The right to privacy of a person accused of a crime is subordinate, but only to a limited extent, to the public interest in obtaining information. The constitutional right to a public trial is a privilege intended for the benefit of the accused. Public trial does not entitle the press or the public to take advantage of the accused's involuntary exposure at the bar of justice "to picture his or her plight in the toils of the law." This was the decision of an American court in the 1956 case of In re Mack.[1]

The liberty of the press does not confer on an individual the privilege of taking advantage of the incarceration of a person accused of a crime to photograph his or her face and figure against his or her will. This was the decision of an American court in the 1927 case of Ex-parte Sturm.[2]

Finally, the court must balance the two competing interests--the accused's personal privacy in the booking photographs against the public's interest in seeing them--to determine if releasing the information is warranted. In a U.S. case, an American court ruled that the balance weighs heavily against disclosure. The accused has a substantial personal privacy interest in preventing public dissemination of his or her non-public booking photographs. On the other hand, the public obtains no discernable interest from viewing the booking photographs, except perhaps the negligible value of satisfying voyeuristic curiosities. Accordingly, the court found that releasing the booking photographs could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

Therefore, the Court concluded, as a matter of law that releasing the booking photographs of the accused would be an unwarranted invasion of his personal privacy. This was the decision of an American court in the 2011 case of Karantsalis v. Department of Justice.[3]


[1] 386 Pa. 251, 126A. 2d 679 (1956).

[2] 152 Md. 114, 136A (1927.

[3] 635 F.3d 497 (2011).

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