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May 29, 2019

Bucks County violated criminal records act by sharing 75 years of inmate information online, jury finds

A federal jury ruled on Tuesday that the county could have to pay up to $67M in punitive damages

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A federal jury has ruled that Bucks County willfully disseminated criminal record information through an online search tool on the county's website, violating a federal privacy law.

As a result of the class-action lawsuit verdict on Tuesday, Bucks County could be required to pay up to $67 million to the 67,000 people booked in county jail from 1938 to 2013, according to the Associated Press.

Personal information, photos, and charges had been made public through the Buck County website's inmate lookup tool for anyone booked during those 75 years, the courts found. The eight-person jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia determined the county had "willfully," or with a reckless disregard, shared that inmate information. 

A U.S. district judge ruled in 2016 that the Bucks County had violated the Criminal History Record Information Act, however Tuesday's proceedings found officials hadn't prevented the information from being shared.

In the class-action lawsuit — brought forth by Daryoush Taha, who discovered in 2013 his 1998 arrest details were available on the county website — each of the 67,000 people booked could be eligible for $1,000 in punitive damages. A judge will determine the exact number of members eligible to collect damages at a later date.

Taha's attorney for the case told the Bucks County Courier Times, "We are gratified by the jury's verdict."

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