South-Western Legal Studies in Business

No Privacy Right for Criminal Suspects for Certain Public Disclosures
Description

Appeals court held that the wife of a police officer had no claim for a violation of her constitutional right to privacy when her photograph and other information was released after her conviction of a traffic offense.

Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words

Privacy; Due Process; Personal Information; Qualified Immunity

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Dorothy Bailey and her husband were involved in a one-car, alcohol-related, rollover accident. Bailey told the police that she was driving, but the investigation determined her husband, an undercover police officer, was the driver. Both were charged and pleaded no contest. The police department issued a press release and provided Bailey’s mug shot to the media, as requested. Bailey claimed that because of this release of information, she was being stalked by people who her husband had investigated. She sued the city police department for violation of her right to privacy because the department released her photograph and other information to the public. The trial court held for defendants. Bailey appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. A criminal suspect does not have a constitutional privacy right under substantive due process guarantees to the nondisclosure of her name, hometown, photograph, phone number, or spouse’s occupation. The city did not violate any privacy right and had a qualified immunity that protects it from such suit. A plaintiff can overcome a defendant’s claim to qualified immunity if the plaintiff can show that the defendant violated a constitutional right that was clearly established. That did not happen here. Substantive due process protects two types of privacy rights, in that it protects an individual’s right to make personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education, and it protects an individuals’ interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters.

Citation

Bailey v. City of Port Huron, 507 F.3d 364 (6th Cir., 2007)

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