For Disclosure & Reporting of Information Relating to Imminent or Pending Criminal Litigation
These voluntary guidelines reflect standards which bar and news media representatives believe are a reasonable means of accommodating, on a voluntary basis, the correlative constitutional rights of free speech and free press with the right of an accused to a fair trial. They are not intended to prevent the news media from inquiring into and reporting on the integrity, fairness, efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement, the administration of justice, or political or governmental questions whenever involved in the judicial process.
As a voluntary code, these guidelines do not necessarily reflect in all respects what the members of the bar or the news media believe would be permitted or required by law.
Information Generally Appropriate for Disclosure, Reporting
Generally, it is appropriate to disclose and report the following information:
- The arrested person's name, age, residence, employment, marital status and similar biographical information.
- The charge, its text, any amendments thereto, and, if applicable, the identity of the complainant.
- The amount and conditions of bail.
- The identity of and biographical information concerning the complaining party and victim, and, if a death is involved, the apparent cause of death unless it appears that the cause of death may be a contested issue.
- The identity of the investigating and arresting agencies and the length of the investigation.
- The circumstances of arrest, including time, place, resistance, pursuit, possession of and all weapons used, and a description of the items seized at the time of arrest. It is appropriate to disclose and report at the time of seizure the description of physical evidence subsequently seized other than a confession, admission or statement. It is appropriate to disclose and report the subsequent finding of weapons, bodies, contraband, stolen property, and similar physical items if, in view of the time and other circumstances, such disclosure and reporting are not likely to interfere with a fair trial.
- Information disclosed by the public records, including all testimony and other evidence adduced at the trial.
Information Generally Not Appropriate for Disclosure, Reporting
Generally, it is not appropriate to disclose or report the following information because of the risk of prejudice to the right of a accused to a fair trial:
- The existence or contents of any confession, admission or statement given by the accused, except it may be stated that the accused denies the charges made against him. This paragraph is not intended to apply to statements made by the accused to representatives of the news media or to the public.
- Opinions concerning the guilt, the innocence, or the character of the accused.
- Statements predicting or influencing the outcome of the trial.
- Results of any examination or tests or the accused's refusal or failure to submit to an examination or test.
- Statements or opinions concerning the credibility or anticipated testimony of prospective witnesses.
- Statements made in the judicial proceedings outside the presence of the jury relating to confessions or other matters which, if reported, would likely interfere with a fair trial.
Prior Criminal Records
Lawyers and law enforcement personnel should not volunteer the prior criminal records of an accused except to aid in his/her apprehension or to warn the public of any dangers he/she presents. The news media can obtain prior criminal records from the public records of the courts, police agencies, and other governmental agencies and from their own files. The news media acknowledge, however, that publication or broadcast of an individual's criminal record can be prejudicial, and its publication or broadcast should be considered carefully, particularly after the filing of formal charges and as the time of the trial approaches, and such publication or broadcast should generally be avoided because readers, viewers, and listeners are potential jurors and an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
- Generally, it is not appropriate for law enforcement personnel to deliberately pose a person in custody for photographing or televising by representatives of the news media.
- Unposed photographing and televising of an accused outside the courtroom is generally appropriate, and law enforcement personnel should not interfere with such photographing or televising except in compliance with an order of the court or unless such photographing or televising would interfere with their official duties.
- It is appropriate for law enforcement personnel to release to representatives of the news media photographs of a suspect or an accused. Before publication of any such photographs, the news media should eliminate any portions of the photographs that would indicate a prior criminal offense or police record.
Continuing Committee for Cooperation
The members of the bar and the news media recognize the desirability of continued joint efforts in attempting to resolve any areas of differences that may arise in their mutual objective of assuring to all Americans both the correlative constitutional rights to freedom of speech and press and to a fair trial. The bar and the news media, through their respective association, have determined to establish a permanent committee to revise these guidelines whenever this appears necessary or appropriate, to issue opinions as to their application to specific situations, to receive, evaluate and make recommendations with respect to complaints and to seek to effect through educational and other voluntary means a proper accommodation of the constitutional correlative rights of free speech, free press and fair trial.