- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday signed legislation requiring police and prosecutors to keep the addresses and other personal information of crime victims and witnesses secret from the public and in some cases defense lawyers without a court order.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery pushed the bill as a way to protect victims. One key provision says photos of minor victims are presumptively not public.

A more sweeping provision keeps the address, phone numbers and other identifying information of victims and witnesses private.

Critics voiced concern that it will shield information about witnesses and accusers from lawyers for those who aren’t yet charged with crimes and have a chilling effect on the ability of journalists to do their jobs.

Montgomery’s office said the law only applies to public records requests, and normal pre-trial “discovery” that allows defense lawyers to get the information is not affected. But lawyers for people not yet charged with crimes or appealing convictions could face roadblocks.

Ducey didn’t comment on his reasons for signing House Bill 2383.

The legislation prevents defense lawyers and news reporters from easily contacting witnesses who may contradict police accounts, Dan Barr, a Phoenix attorney who specializes in public records law, said when the bill passed the Senate in late March.

“And so the only version of a crime or an event is the version the police give you, or the version that the prosecutors give you if they’re controlling all the information,” Barr said. “That’s a bad idea for a host of reasons.”

He said journalists could uncover more information or details that could contradict the police report.

“In both cases, that’s a value to society,” Barr said.

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