Mug shots of people arrested by law enforcement officers are open records and must be released to the public when requested, according to an opinion released Thursday by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
The opinion came after a request by state Sen. Ron Justice, R-Chickasha, and State Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater, asking if the photos are open record and whether they must be released in electronic format.
The answer to both questions is yes, according to Pruitt's opinion.
The Oklahoma Open Records Act defines specific law enforcement records that must be released. A physical description of an arrestee is among those records considered open.
“The inclusion of a picture within the term description has long been recognized by law,” the opinion states. “Because a mug shot is one of the best physical descriptions on an arrestee, it is a type of record that must be disclosed.”
Pruitt dismissed a question from Justice and Halligan asking whether releasing mug shots is an invasion of privacy. The only time that could happen is if the records are released in a way that falsely implies guilt, according to the opinion.
Generally, records must be released electronically on request if they are kept in electronic format, and Pruitt confirmed that also is the case for mug shots.
Law enforcement agencies across Oklahoma typically release mug shots, although a Cleveland County assistant district attorney briefly declined to release them from the Cleveland County jail until his opinion was overruled by District Attorney Greg Mashburn.