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February 2, 1999

Mr. Richard Brown
Assistant City Attorney
Criminal Law & Police Division
1500 Marilla
Dallas, Texas 76201

OR99-0301

Dear Mr. Brown:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 121949.

The Dallas Police Department (the "department") received a request for information contained in an accident report and an offense report prepared by the department. You have submitted a representative sample of the responsive information.(1) You contend that all responsive information is excepted from public disclosure by Government Code sections 552.101 and 552.108. We have considered the exceptions you claim and have reviewed the documents at issue.

The accident report form appears to have been completed pursuant to chapter 550 of the Transportation Code. See Transp. Code 550.064 (officer's accident report). The Seventy-fifth Legislature, repealed, codified, and amended V.T.C.S. article 6701d, concerning the disclosure of accident report information. Act of May 29, 1997, S.B. 1069, 13, 75th Leg., R.S. (to be codified at Transp. Code 550.065). However, a Travis County district court has issued a temporary injunction enjoining the enforcement of section 13 of S.B. 1069 for ninety days. Texas Daily Newspaper Assoc'n, v. Morales, No. 97-08930 (345th Dist. Ct., Travis County, Tex., Aug. 29, 1997) (order granting temporary injunction).

A temporary injunction preserves the status quo until the final hearing of a case on its merits. Janus Films, Inc. v. City of Fort Worth, 163 Tex. 616, 617, 358 S.W.2d 589 (1962). The Supreme Court has defined the status quo as "the last, actual peaceable, non-contested status that preceded the pending controversy." Texas v. Southwestern Bell Tel. Co. 526 S.W.2d 526, 528 (Tex. 1975). The status quo of accident report information prior to the enactment of S.B. 1069 is governed by section 47 of article 6701d, V.T.C.S.

Section 47(b)(1) provides that:

The Department or a law enforcement agency employing a peace officer who made an accident report is required to release a copy of the report on request to:

. . .

(D) a person who provides the Department or the law enforcement agency with two or more of the following:

(i) the date of the accident;

(ii) the name of any person involved in the accident; or

(iii) the specific location of the accident

V.T.C.S. art. 6701d, 47(b)(1) (emphasis added). Under this provision, a law enforcement agency "is required to release" a copy of an accident report to a person who provides the law enforcement agency with two or more pieces of information specified by the statute. Id. In the situation at hand, the requestor has not provided the department with pertinent information. The requestor did not provide two or more of the required information needed for disclosure. We conclude that you are not required to release this information under section 47(b)(1)(D) of article 6701d, V.T.C.S.

You argue that the information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108 of the Government Code. Section 552.108 reads in pertinent part as follows:

(a) Information held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime . . . if:

(1) release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime;

(2) it is information that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime only in relation to an investigation that did not result in conviction or deferred adjudication; or

. . .

(c) This section does not except from [public disclosure] information that is basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime.

You advise us that the case to which the requested report relates is currently pending investigation. Based on your representations, we conclude that you may withhold the offense report under section 552.108.

Section 552.108 does not, however, except from required public disclosure "basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime." Gov't Code 552.108(c). This office considers such basic information to encompass the front page offense report information the court held to be public in Houston Chronicle Publishing Company v. City of Houston, 531 S.W.2d 177 (Tex. Civ. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1975), writ ref'd n.r.e. per curiam, 536 S.W.2d 559 (Tex. 1976). The department must release these types of information in accordance with Houston Chronicle.

We are resolving this matter with an informal letter ruling rather than with a published open records decision. This ruling is limited to the particular records at issue under the facts presented to us in this request and should not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.

Yours very truly,

David Van Brunt Price
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

DVP\nc

Ref: ID# 121949

Enclosures: Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Vickey Thornton
Paragon Insurance Group
P.O. Box 5455
Shreveport, Louisiana 71135-5455
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. In reaching our conclusion here, we assume that the "representative sample" of records submitted to this office is truly representative of the requested records as a whole. See Open Records Decision Nos. 499 (1988), 497 (1988). This open records letter does not reach, and therefore does not authorize the withholding of, any other requested records to the extent that those records contain substantially different types of information than that submitted to this office.
 

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