This question is based on the reports on the attacker in Auckland, New Zealand who is currently prosecuted under an act of terrorism charge.

“Neither his name nor the fact that he was a refugee could be reported until a suppression order by a New Zealand judge was lifted late on Saturday night. The identity of refugees, and their immigration status, are automatically protected by law in New Zealand.”

Is there a duty on U.S. or courts to protect the anonymity of criminally accused persons until they are found guilty or any precedent that permits a court discretion in specifically the case of asylum seekers or refugees?

Is it different in infraction, misdemeanor or felony charges?

Disclosing the name and/or address of an asylum seeker may expose them to grave danger which is duly noted and dealt with under New Zealand law even in matters that may not bar or even cognizably affect the outcome of their immigration case.

Is there any state specific regulation on this in California, for e.g.?

2 Answers 2


It's exactly the opposite. All arrests are public record under California Government Code 6254(f):

Notwithstanding any other provision of this subdivision, state and local law enforcement agencies shall make public the following information, except to the extent that disclosure of a particular item of information would endanger the safety of a person involved in an investigation or would endanger the successful completion of the investigation or a related investigation: (1) The full name and occupation of every individual arrested by the agency, the individual’s physical description including date of birth, color of eyes and hair, sex, height and weight, the time and date of arrest, the time and date of booking, the location of the arrest, the factual circumstances surrounding the arrest, the amount of bail set, the time and manner of release or the location where the individual is currently being held, and all charges the individual is being held upon, including any outstanding warrants from other jurisdictions and parole or probation holds.

Other than the "endanger the safety" exception, which could be applied case-by-case, there is no general exemption for refugees or asylum seekers.

Trials are also public, see What does it mean that a trial in a US court is "Public"?. Members of the public cannot be excluded from a trial, and the defendant can't "opt out" of this. This is considered to be a central feature of US justice systems and an important check on possible abuses of the criminal judicial process.


Because of the First Amendment, there are no general law prohibiting publicizing the name of a criminal suspect in the US. Government records are public to some extent in most states, therefore a person might demand the name of suspects involved in crimes under a state's public records law. In Washington state, there are some specific crime-related exceptions, mainly pertaining to not disclosing information about victims but also

Specific intelligence information and specific investigative records compiled by investigative, law enforcement, and penology agencies, and state agencies vested with the responsibility to discipline members of any profession, the nondisclosure of which is essential to effective law enforcement or for the protection of any person's right to privacy

But there is no prohibition against revealing the name of a suspect (much less a person being prosecuted).

Grand juries operate under a rule of secrecy, which at the federal level in Rule 6(e)(2)(B) imposes an obligation of secrecy on a specific list of participants (which does not include witnesses).

There are laws limiting what is considered "private information", which generally protects from disclosure information that is not of public interest and which a reasonable person would find offensive to be disclosed. This consideration might be used to refuse to disclose the identity of a person being investigated, indeed post 9-11 the US Dept. of Justice refused to disclosed identities of many people arrested and detained on immigration matters using this basis, but this is decided ad libitum by the person (not) revealing the requested information. You can see in this article a few other ways for law enforcement to not reveal information about suspects, but there is no blanket prohibition against disclosure or the fact of being investigated.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .