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Connecticut high court limits disclosure of arrest records

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  1. Freedom of Information
CONNECTICUT -- The state Freedom of Information Act limits the disclosure of arrest records to basic information relating to an…

CONNECTICUT — The state Freedom of Information Act limits the disclosure of arrest records to basic information relating to an arrest until the related criminal prosecution is over, the Connecticut Supreme Court held in early September.

The 3-2 decision requires police to disclose to the public and the press only the “name and address of the person arrested, the date, time and place of the arrest and the offense for which the person was arrested.” Affirming the trial court decision, the majority concluded that this interpretation ensures that certain minimal information regarding arrests but not the entire arrest report will be disclosed to the public.

The dissent interpreted the act as setting the bare minimum of information that must be disclosed, rather than limiting disclosure to those items.

The report at issue in this case documented the September 1989 arrest of two teen-agers after a violent, anti-Semitic and racist confrontation with a restaurant owner in the town of Windsor Locks. After William Gifford, the town police chief, denied a reporter’s request for a copy of the incident report, the Journal-Inquirer in Manchester filed a complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission in September 1989.

The commission ruled that such arrest reports were not exempt from disclosure except for the names and addresses of witnesses, and ordered Gifford to comply with the act in this case and the future.

(Gifford v. Freedom of Information Commission; Media Counsel: Ralph G. Elliot, Hartford)