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December 6, 1999

Michael L. Scanlon
Bickerstaff, Heath, Smiley, Pollan, Kever & McDaniel, L.L.P.
3000 Bank One Center
1717 Main Street
Dallas, Texas 75201-4335

OR99-3308

Dear Mr. Scanlon:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 130103.

The Town of Flower Mound (the "town") received a request for information related to a motor vehicle accident which resulted in a fatality. You have released the accident reports to the requestor. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101, 552.108, and 552.130 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and have reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.108(a)(2) of the Government Code excepts from required public disclosure "[i]nformation held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime . . . if . . . 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." You assert that the investigation related to this file did not result in a conviction or deferred adjudication. After reviewing the records at issue, we conclude that you have met your burden of establishing the applicability of section 552.108(a)(2) with regard to the requested incident report and that most of the information contained in the report therefore may be withheld.(1)

As you noted, information normally found on the front page of an offense report is generally considered public. 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); 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. Gov't Code 552.108(c); see Open Records Decision No. 127 (1976) (summarizing the types of information deemed public by Houston Chronicle).

Additionally, you assert that certain information in the offense and accident reports is excepted from disclosure under section 552.130 of the Government Code. We assume you refer to the driver's license numbers, vehicle identification numbers, and similar information found in the reports. We have already concluded that you may withhold, pursuant to Government Code section 552.108, all but the front page information from the offense reports. Therefore, we need not address the applicability of section 552.130 to the offense report information.

The release of information contained in accident reports is not governed by section 552.130. The Seventy-fifth Legislature repealed V.T.C.S. article 6701d 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. Gen. Laws 4575, 4582-4583 (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.(2)

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 provided the town with the date of the accident and the name of a person involved in the accident. Thus, you are required to release the accident reports under section 47(b)(1)(D) of article 6701d of the Texas Civil Statutes.

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,

Carla Gay Dickson
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

CGD/cwt

Ref: ID# 130103

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Daniel Durfey
Legal Investigator
Durfey & Associates
4691 Whitehead Road
Midlothian, Texas 76065
(w/o enclosures)

cc: Becky Payne
Don Ballard
Janice Cruz
Nell Cheslock


 

Footnotes

1. Because section 552.108 is dispositive, we do not address your claim under the informer's privilege.

2. 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. Gen. Laws 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. Gen. Laws 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. Gen. Laws 4413, 4414.
 

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