Magazine article Editor & Publisher

States' Right to Choose Access

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

States' Right to Choose Access

Article excerpt

States can pick and choose who gets access to police records, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a narrow ruling Dec. 7 that was aimed at commercial data services - but sent a chill through newspapers.

By a 7-2 vote, the high court revived a 1996 California law intended to protect privacy by denying access to some police information if a business intends to resell the data - but permitting access for people with a "scholarly, journalistic, political, or governmental purpose" and to private investigators. The law was challenged by United Reporting Publishing Corp., which publishes arrest records for attorneys, insurance companies, alcohol rehabilitation centers, and others with a business interest in arrestees. A U.S. District Court and a federal appellate court in San Francisco declared the law unconstitutional.

In its decision, the Supreme Court said the law is not unconstitutional on its face and that United Reporting has the option of attempting to qualify for access. …

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