Update: Judge tells sheriff to release mug shots
A Roanoke judge reminded local sheriff Octavia Johnson that, in general, mug shots are public records that must be released upon request. Johnson’s policy was to release photos of those still in the jail’s custody, but not those of people released on bail.
The Roanoke Times and WSLS in Roanoke took Johnson to court, pointing out the text of § 2.2-3706(F)(2), which says that "adult arrestee photographs," i.e., mug shots, can be withheld when necessary to avoid jeopardizing a felony investigation, but they must be released after the possible harm has passed.
Most jurisdictions around the state understand this and regularly release mug shots. Even the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police’s FOIA training manual states unequivocally that photos "must be released" after any possible jeopardy has passed.
The judge issued an injunction against Johnson, prohibiting from continuing her practice.
"The lesson was not free," the Roanoke Times noted in an editorial. "Johnson’s hubris cost taxpayer dollars both to defend her untenable position and to pay the attorney fees incurred by this paper and the station. The latter ran to $3,127."