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May 18, 1999

Ms. Rachel L. Ponder
Assistant City Attorney
City of Bryan
P.O. Box 1000
Bryan, Texas 77805

OR99-1357

Dear Ms. Ponder:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 124643.

The City of Bryan (the "city") received a request for information concerning a sexual assault investigation. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and have reviewed the documents submitted.

Section 552.108 excepts from disclosure information held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution if release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation or prosecution of crime. Generally, a governmental body claiming an exception under section 552.108 must reasonably explain, if the information does not supply the explanation on its face, how and why the release of the requested information would interfere with law enforcement. See Gov't Code 552.108(a)(1), (b)(1), .301(b)(1); see also Ex parte Pruitt, 551 S.W.2d 706 (Tex. 1977). You state that release of the requested information would interfere with a current investigation of a sexual assault case. Accordingly, we find that release of the requested information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime. See Houston Chronicle Publ'g Co. 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) (court delineates law enforcement interests that are present in active cases). We conclude, therefore, that section 552.108(a)(1) is applicable to the requested information.

We note, however, that information normally found on the front page of an offense report is generally considered public. See generally Gov't Code 552.108(c); Houston Chronicle, 536 S.W.2d at 559; Open Records Decision No. 127 (1976). Thus, you must release the types of information that are considered to be front page offense report information, even if this information is not actually located on the front page of the offense report.

However, because the requested information contains information about an alleged sexual assault, certain front page offense report information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code. In sexual assault cases, section 552.101 excepts from public disclosure certain information that is not normally excepted under section 552.108. Section 552.101 excepts from public disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Under section 552.101, information may be withheld on the basis of common-law privacy. The doctrine of common-law privacy protects information if it is highly intimate or embarrassing such that its release would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person and the public has no legitimate interest in it. Industrial Found. v. Texas Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977). Accordingly, you must withhold any information tending to identify the sexual assault victim pursuant to common-law privacy. See Open Records Decision Nos. 393 (1983), 339 (1982). You must release all other front page offense report information.

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.

Sincerely,

Yen-Ha Le
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

YHL/nc

Ref.: ID# 124643

encl: Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Jerald K. Bell
9800 Northwest Freeway, Suite 306
Houston, Texas 77092-8832
(w/o enclosures)


 

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