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John Cornyn

September 21, 2000

Ms. Mary E. Reveles
Assistant County Attorney
Fort Bend County
301 Jackson, Suite 621
Richmond, Texas 77469-3108


Dear Ms. Reveles:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 141118.

The Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office (the "sheriff") received a request for an offense report. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

First, we note that the submitted information contains a search and arrest warrant, as well as the affidavit supporting the warrant. To the extent the warrant has been filed with a court, it is considered public, is not subject to the section 552.108(a)(1) exception to disclosure, and must be released to the requestor. See Gov't Code 552.022(a)(17); Star-Telegram, Inc. v. Walker, 834 S.W.2d 54, 57 (Tex. 1992). Likewise, because the search warrant has been executed, the search warrant affidavit is considered public and must be released. Crim. Proc. Code art. 18.01(b).

The remainder of the information, with the exception of basic information, may be withheld under section 552.108(a)(1) of the Government Code. Section 552.108(a)(1) of the Texas Government Code excepts from 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." Gov't Code 552.108(a)(1). You state that the requested information concerns a pending criminal investigation and prosecution. Accordingly, we find that release of the remainder of the requested information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime, see 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) (court delineates law enforcement interests that are present in active cases), and we conclude that the sheriff may withhold the information under section 552.108(a)(1).

However, we note that section 552.108 is inapplicable to basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime. Gov't Code 552.108(c); see 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). Consequently, you must release basic information contained in the report in addition to the search and arrest warrant, if the warrant was filed with a court, and the search warrant affidavit. Moreover, while section 552.108(a)(1) 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.

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 Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.--Austin 1992, no writ).

Please remember that under the Act the release of information triggers certain procedures for costs and charges to the requestor. If records are released in compliance with this ruling, be sure that all charges for the information are at or below the legal amounts. Questions or complaints about over-charging must be directed to the General Services Commission at 512/475-2497.

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.


Nathan E. Bowden
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division


Ref: ID# 141118

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Rae Ann Parks
5406 Linda
Rosharon, Texas 77583
(w/o enclosures)


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