|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
June 26, 2000
Mr. Steven D. Monté
Dear Mr. Monté:
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# 138053.
The Dallas Police Department received a request for copies of all records related to a specified address. You claim that the information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101 and 552.108 of the Government Code. 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 information protected by other statutes. Section 261.201(a) of the Texas Family Code states in relevant part as follows:
(a) The following information is confidential, is not subject to public release under Chapter 552, Government Code, and may be disclosed only for purposes consistent with this code and applicable federal or state law or under rules adopted by an investigating agency:
(1) a report of alleged or suspected abuse or neglect made under this chapter and the identity of the person making the report; and
(2) except as otherwise provided in this section, the files, reports, records, communications, audiotapes, videotapes, and working papers used or developed in an investigation under this chapter or in providing services as a result of an investigation.
Fam. Code § 261.201(a). We believe that offense report numbers 0545069-H, 0683858-D, 0481922-E, and 0482198-E consist of reports, records, and working papers used or developed in an investigation made under chapter 261 of the Family Code. Because you have not cited any specific rule that the investigating agency has adopted with regard to the release of this type of information, we assume that no such regulation exists. Given that assumption, offense report numbers 0545069-H, 0683858-D, 0481922-E, and 0482198 are confidential pursuant to section 261.201 of the Family Code. See Open Records Decision No. 440 at 2 (1986) (construing predecessor statute). Accordingly, the department must withhold offense report numbers 0545069-H, 0683858-D, 0481922-E, and 0482198 from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code as information made confidential by law.
Section 552.101 also encompasses confidentiality provisions such as Family Code section 58.007. Juvenile offender records held by law enforcement agencies are confidential under section 58.007(c) of the Family Code. Section 58.007(c) applies to juvenile law enforcement records concerning conduct that occurred on or after September 1, 1997 and reads as follows:
(c) Except as provided by Subsection (d), law enforcement records and files concerning a child and information stored, by electronic means or otherwise, concerning the child from which a record or file could be generated may not be disclosed to the public and shall be:
(1) if maintained on paper or microfilm, kept separate from adult files and records;
(2) if maintained electronically in the same computer system as records or files relating to adults, be accessible under controls that are separate and distinct from controls to access electronic data concerning adults; and
(3) maintained on a local basis only and not sent to a central state or federal depository, except as provided by Subchapter B.
Here, some of the requested information involves juvenile conduct that occurred after September 1, 1997. It does not appear that any of the exceptions in section 58.007 apply; therefore, offense report numbers 0266595-D, 0434806-G, 0768992-F, and 0485333-G are made confidential by section 58.007 of the Family Code. Accordingly, you must withhold these offense reports under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 58.007 of the Family Code.
Finally, section 552.108 of the Government Code states that information held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime is excepted from required public disclosure "if release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime." Gov't Code § 552.108(a)(1). 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 section 552.108 is applicable. See Gov't Code §§ 552.108, .301(e)(1)(A); see also Ex parte Pruitt, 551 S.W.2d 706 (Tex. 1977). You explain that the some of the requested documents relate to criminal abatement investigation. Because the investigation is pending, we believe that the release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime. Thus, you may withhold most of the criminal abatement investigation information under section 552.108(a)(1).
However, 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 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 basic front page offense and arrest information. We note that you have the discretion to release all or part of the remaining information that is not otherwise confidential by law. Gov't Code § 552.007.
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.
Ref: ID# 138053
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Tamara L. Wythe
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US