Why don't police websites show when charges are dropped?

Why don't police websites show when charges are dropped? »Play Video
CALDWELL, Idaho - Just about every county in the country has a current arrests page on a sheriff's department's website.

"Once a person is charged with a crime, they become the object of a legitimate public interest. That public interest far outweighs an individual's privacy at that stage. It's a public interest to the community so that people can know what they're being charged with so they can take the necessary actions and measures," said Brian Taylor, Canyon County prosecutor.

Arrests are part of the public record, but putting people pictures and names with a list of charges online can impact a person’s reputation in the community.

So why not have a list of cases online when charges are dropped?

“We can't distinguish to the public because it’s not always part of the public record. We're bound by rules what we can and can't disclose,” Taylor said.

Taylor points out there are instances when people are guilty but charges are dropped anyway. Some suspects make plea deals in other cases, confessions can be suppressed and witnesses disappear.

Trying to sort it all out and be fair to everyone would be a risky proposition for a county.

"The moment we start doing that it subjects us to more liability so if we don't do it at all, there's no liability," Taylor said.

Taylor also points out there's a process of checks and balances before someone can be arrested. Police need to file a report, then it's signed off on by the prosecutor and a judge before an arrest warrant is issued.

The state of Idaho does make it easy to follow a particular case with its New window court repository site, which allows anyone to follow a case from beginning to end.

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