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December 16, 1999

Mr. Samith C. Hill
Chief of Police
Forest Hill Police Department
3336 Horton Road
Forest Hill, Texas 76119

OR99-3629

Dear Chief Hill:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID # 131563.

The Forest Hill Police Department (the "department") received a request for information relating to a hit and run and a vehicle theft. You state that you have no information that is responsive to the request for the theft report. You claim that the requested hit and run information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and have reviewed the information you submitted. Initially, we note your statement that "[t]he request did not make it clear as to what relevance this information would be to the Winn Dixie Store." We respectfully remind you that a governmental body may not inquire into the purpose for which requested information will be used. See Gov't Code 552.222(a).

Section 552.108(a)(1) 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 . . . release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime[.]" You state that the requested information pertains to a case that remains under investigation. Based on your representation, we find that most of the requested information is excepted from disclosure pursuant to section 552.108(a)(1). We note, however, that section 552.108 is inapplicable to basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime. Gov't Code 552.108(c). We believe that such basic information refers to the front-page offense and arrest report information held to be public in 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). See Open Records Decision No. 127 (1976). The department must release the type of information that is considered to be basic front page offense and arrest report information.

This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.

This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. 552.321(a).

If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. 552.3215(e).

If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.-Austin 1992, no writ).

If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.

Sincerely,

James W. Morris, III
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JWM/cwt

Ref: ID# 131563

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Bill McDowell
Custard Insurance Adjusters
Post Office Box 36283
Dallas, Texas 75235
(w/o enclosures)


 

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