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January 14, 2000

Ms. Barbara G. Heptig
Assistant City Attorney
City of Arlington
P.O. Box 1065
Arlington, Texas 76004-1065

OR2000-0163

Dear Ms. Heptig:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 131148.

The City of Arlington (the "city") received a request for three categories of information related to law enforcement. You seek to withhold information related to the identity of victims of sexual assaults. You assert that this information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with the common law right of privacy. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." This section encompasses common law privacy and excepts from disclosure private facts about an individual. Industrial Found. v. Texas Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977). Information may be withheld from the public when (1) it is highly intimate and embarrassing such that its release would be highly objectionable to a person of ordinary sensibilities, and (2) there is no legitimate public interest in its disclosure. Id. at 685; Open Records Decision No. 611 at 1 (1992). Applying that standard, this office has held that the identities of all victims of serious sexual offenses is confidential. Open Records Decision No. 339 (1982). Also, as "other information, such as the location of the crime, might furnish a basis for identification of the victim" such information is not subject to disclosure. Id.

From our review of the submitted information, we conclude that the following items are protected by the common law right of privacy and must be withheld under section 552.101 of the Government Code: (1) offense descriptions of calls to investigations of sexual assaults, (2) addresses of calls to investigations of sexual assaults, and (3) grid numbers of calls to investigations of sexual assaults. The call id and the date and time of the calls to sexual assault investigations, as well as all of the printout information that relates to calls of investigations into offenses other than sexual assaults, must be released.

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,

Don Ballard
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JDB/nc

Ref: ID# 131148

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Dianne Trzepacz
Howell, Dorman, Anderson, Berg & Smyer, L.L.P.
1300 S. University Drive, Suite 110
Fort Worth, Texas 76107
(w/o enclosures)


 

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