Privacy Rights of Arrestees Trump Disclosure of Their Addresses to the Public
Mott v. City and County of Honolulu (ICA January 30, 2020)
Background. The Honolulu Police Department keeps a daily arrest log known as a blotter. The log includes the name of the arrestee and his or her address. For years, HPD would provide a requesting member of the public blotter information containing the address. In 2017, HPD changed its policy and started to disclose only the adult arrest log, which did not include the address. Karen Mott wrote to HPD seeking disclosure of the blotter with the address. The request was denied. Mott filed a lawsuit seeking declaratory relief and an order compelling disclosure of the addresses. The City moved to dismiss the complaint. The circuit court, with the Hon. Judge Gary W. B. Chang presiding, granted the motion. Mott appealed.
The Uniform Information Practices Act Balances Open Government Against Invasion of Privacy. The State seeks to “conduct government business as openly as possible . . .tempered by a recognition of the right of the people to privacy[.]” HRS § 92F-2. The Uniform Information Practices Act requires that “[e]xcept as provided in section 92F-13, each agency upon request by any person shall make government records available for inspection and copying during regular business hours.” HRS § 92F-11(b). Disclosure is not required when it “constitute[s] a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy[.]” HRS § 92F-13(1).
However, disclosure is not a “clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the privacy interest of the individual.” “[O]nce a significant privacy interest is recognized, it must be balanced against the public interest in disclosure to determine whether disclosure of the information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy.” Peer News LLC v. City & County of Honolulu, 138 Hawai'i 53, 68, 376 P.3d 1, 16 (2016).
Arrestees have a significant Privacy Interest in their Addresses. The ICA held that arrestees have a significant privacy interest in personal information such as their home addresses. The ICA relied on Peer News, which stated “there is no compelling public interest in the disclosure of . . . confidential personal information such as home addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and bank account information. Such information, if present in relevant records, must be redacted.” Id. at 73, 376 P.3d at 21. The ICA also noted that the Office of Information Practices has concurred with the HSC in several opinion letters. See OPI Op. Ltr. No. 89-16; OIP Op. Ltr. 96-04; OIP Op. Ltr. 99-06; OIP Op. Ltr. 07-07. The ICA affirmed the dismissal of the case.