Montana’s Constitution clearly provides for the public’s right to know and the individual’s right to privacy. The attempt to strike a balance between these competing provisions has given rise to continuing legal interpretation and litigation.
Right to Know – Article II, section 9 of the Montana Constitution provides that:
[quote style=”2″ author=””]No person shall be deprived of the right to examine documents or to observe the deliberations of all public bodies or agencies of state government and its subdivisions, except in cases in which the demand of individual privacy clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure.[/quote]
Right of Privacy –Article II, section 10 provides that:
[quote style=”2″ author=”]The right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest.[/quote]
The Montana legislature enacted the Criminal Justice Information Act in 1979. The Act divides all criminal justice information into two categories: public and confidential criminal justice information.
Public criminal justice information, defined in 44-5-103(13) of the Montana Code Annotated, includes:
There are no restrictions on the dissemination of information that is specified as public.
Confidential criminal justice, defined in 44-5-103(3) of the Montana Code Annotated, includes:
Much of the information law enforcement generates in the course of a criminal investigation falls under “criminal investigative information” and is therefore confidential.
The confidentiality of victim information is governed by 44-5-311 of the Montana Code Annotated.
Victim Information: If a victim requests confidentiality, an agency may withhold information including the address, telephone number or place of employment of the victim or a member of his or her family.
Sex Assault Victims: An agency may not disseminate to the public any information directly or indirectly identifying a victim of sexual assault, sexual intercourse without consent, indecent exposure or incest.
These provisions do not allow withholding of information that is: