|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
February 10, 1999
Ms. Katheryn H. West
Dear Ms. West:
You have asked whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID#122071.
The City of Dallas (the "city") received a request for the investigation file regarding an accident with service number 617026E. You assert that you may withhold the accident report pursuant to section 47(b)(1) of article 6701d of the Texas Civil Statutes and photographs depicting peace officers under section 552.119 of the Government Code.
You have submitted as responsive to the request an accident report that was completed pursuant to chapter 550 of the Transportation Code. See Transp. Code § 550.064 (officer's accident report). The Seventy-fifth Legislature repealed article 6701d of the Texas Civil Statutes and amended section 550.065 of the Transportation Code concerning the disclosure of accident report information. Act of May 29, 1997, 75th Leg., R.S. ch. 1187, 1997 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 4575 (Vernon) (to be codified at Transp. Code § 550.065). However, a Travis County district court has issued a temporary injunction enjoining the enforcement of the amendment to section 550.065 of the Transportation Code. Texas Daily Newspaper Ass'n, v. Morales, No. 97-08930 (345th Dist. Ct., Travis County, Tex., Oct. 24, 1997) (second amended agreed 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, 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.(1)
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). 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. The information is otherwise confidential. The requestor has supplied the date of the accident only. Because the requestor has not complied with section 47(b)(1) of article 6701d, you need not release the accident report.
Section 552.119 excepts from public disclosure a photograph of a peace officer(2) that, if released, would endanger the life or physical safety of the officer unless one of three exceptions applies. The three exceptions are: (1) the officer is under indictment or charged with an offense by information; (2) the officer is a party in a fire or police civil service hearing or a case in arbitration; or (3) the photograph is introduced as evidence in a judicial proceeding. This section also provides that a photograph exempt from disclosure under this section may be made public only if the peace officer gives written consent to the disclosure. Open Records Decision No. 502 (1998). The submitted copies of photographs depict peace officers and it does not appear that any of the exceptions are applicable. Moreover, you state that the peace officers have not executed any written consents to disclosure. Thus, we agree that you may redact those portions of the photographs depicting peace officers. The remainder of the photographs must be released.
Lastly, we note that you have submitted the offense report concerning the accident at issue. As you have not asserted that the offense report is exempt from disclosure by any exceptions, you must release the report except for the information excepted from public disclosure by section 552.130 of the Government Code.
Section 552.130 excepts from public disclosure information that relates to a motor vehicle title or registration issued by an agency of this state. We have marked the vehicle identification number that you must withhold under section 552.130.
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.
Ref.: ID# 122071
cc: Mr. Bart A. Garner
1. Although the Seventy-fourth Legislature repealed and codified article 6701d as part of the Transportation Code, the legislature did not intend a substantive change of the law but merely a recodification of existing law. Act of May 1, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S., ch. 165, §§ 24, 25 1995 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 1025, 1870-71. Furthermore, the Seventy-fourth Legislature, without reference to the repeal and codification of V.T.C.S. article 6701d, amended section 47 of article 6701d, V.T.C.S., relating to the disclosure of accident reports. Act of May 27, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S., ch. 894, § 1, 1995 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 4413, 4414. Because the repeal of a statute by a code does not affect an amendment of the statute by the same legislature which enacted the code, the amendment is preserved and given effect as part of the code provision. Gov't Code § 311.031(c). Thus, the amendment of section 47 of article 6701d, V.T.C.S. is the existing law regarding the availability of accident report information, and may be found following section 550.065 of the Transportation Code. See also Act of May 27, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S., ch. 894, § 1, 1995 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 4413, 4414.
2. "Peace officer" is defined by article 2.12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
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