Do Rehabilitated Felons Have A Right To Privacy?


Steven Gates owned a business with his wife in San Bernardino County, Ca. Then his mother told him that his criminal past was being featured on the Discovery Channel, the Los Angeles Times reports. His name and photograph were shown on a program about a 1988 San Diego murder for hire in which he had pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact. The hourlong episode was aired several times.

Gates filed an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit; the California Supreme Court will decide whether ex-felons like Gates are entitled to privacy when their crimes occurred long ago and they have fully rehabilitated. The news media and the entertainment industry, siding with the Discovery Channel, have warned that stories based on old crimes might not be written or produced if their subjects can recover big jury awards for loss of privacy. “The important societal interest in rehabilitating former felons is served in better ways than by muzzling the media and their fellow citizens,” said Louis Petrich, an attorney for the Discovery Channel. Gates, 51, said he lost clients after the television show was broadcast. Last year, a judge awarded him a certificate of rehabilitation, recognizing his rehabilitation and restoring his legal rights.


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