Can I publish the name of a minor involved in a crime?
Q: We printed the name of a 17-year-old arrested for car jacking. Now the mother is complaining and said we should not have legally named her kid. Does she have a case?
A: In general, under the First Amendment the truthful publication of the identity of a juvenile who has been accused of a serious crime cannot be punished. See Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Co., 443 U.S. 97, 103 (1979). (Note: this case deals only with criminal sanctions, but other United States Supreme Court cases have held that accurate reports cannot give rise to civil liability, either. See Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001).)
In California, the Supreme Court has held that the publication of the names of minors involved in crimes is not an invasion of privacy. See Kapellas v. Kofman, 1 Cal. 3d 20, 36-39 (1969). (Note that this case dealt with minors who were the children of a political candidate; however, the reports of recent crimes are consistently held to be newsworthy, so this is probably a distinction that makes no difference in the outcome.)If a report is based on information from a public record source, the law is even more clear. The accurate report of that information is absolutely privileged, both by statute (Civ. Code section 47) and by the First Amendment (see Gates v. Discovery Communications, Inc, 34 Cal.4th 679 (2004)).