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April 11, 2000

Mr. Monty Wade Sullivan
Assistant City Attorney
Legal Department
City of Houston
Post Office Box 1562
Houston, Texas 77251-1562

OR2000-1411

Dear Mr. Sullivan:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Public Information Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 135859.

The City of Houston received a request for offense report no. 026787900. You have submitted the report for our review. You assert that the requested information is excepted from disclosure pursuant to subsection 552.108(a)(2) of the Government Code, as well as under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with Texas Family Code section 58.007. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." This section encompasses confidentiality provisions such as Family Code section 58.007. Section 58.007(c) provides that "law enforcement records and files concerning a child . . . may not be disclosed to the public[.]" Juvenile law enforcement records relating to conduct that occurred on or after September 1, 1997 are confidential under section 58.007. Family Code section 51.02(2) defines "child" as a person who is

(A) ten years of age or older and under 17 years of age; or

(B) seventeen years of age or older and under 18 years of age who is alleged or found to have engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision as a result of acts committed before becoming 17 years of age.

On the date of the offense, the suspect was 17 years of age; thus, the suspect was not a child at the time of the offense as that term is defined by the Family Code. Therefore, the offense report is not excepted from public disclosure by Family Code section 58.007(c).

Section 552.108(a)(2) excepts from 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 explain that the criminal investigation to which the requested report relates concluded in a result other than conviction or deferred adjudication. Based upon this representation, we find that most of the requested information is excepted from disclosure pursuant to section 552.108(a)(2).

However, section 552.108 is inapplicable to basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime. See Gov't Code 552.108(c). We believe such basic information refers to the information held to be public in Houston Chronicle Publishing 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). Thus, you must release the type of information that is considered to be front page offense report information, even if this information is not actually located on the front page of the requested report. Thus, with the exception of the basic front page offense information, you may withhold the requested information from disclosure based on section 552.108(a)(2). Although section 552.108(a)(2) authorizes you to withhold the remaining information from disclosure, you may choose to release all or part of the information at issue that is not otherwise confidential by law. See Gov't Code 552.007.

This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and 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,

Julie Reagan Watson
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JRW/cwt

Ref: ID# 135859

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Yvonne Silva
4906 Old Brickhouse
Houston, Texas 77041
(w/o enclosures)


 

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