Public Access Opinion 16-002

Withholding Crime Scene and Autopsy Photographs Under Exemption 7(1)(c)

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 16-002
Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2016

An individual submitted a FOIA request to the Illinois State Police (ISP) for records pertaining to the death of his daughter, including all crime scene and autopsy photographs. ISP responded by providing certain information but withholding the crime scene and autopsy photographs as personal information which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under Section 7(1)(c). The PAC found that 7(1)(c) did not apply here because an individual’s personal privacy interest ceases to exist upon death. Further, the PAC held that a decedent’s surviving family members possess a separate personal privacy interest in their close relative’s death-scene images, that such individuals may consent to the disclosure of information in which he or she has a personal privacy interest, and that ISP did not articulate a legal rationale justifying withholding the photographs from the decedent’s father, who was also executor of her estate.

This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.