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October 5, 2000

Mr. Charles M. Allen, II
Legal Office
Richardson Police Department
P.O. Box 831078
Richardson, Texas 75083-1078

OR2000-3828

Dear Mr. Allen:

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# 139842.

The Richardson Police Department (the "department") received a request for a specified arrest 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 have reviewed the information you submitted.

Section 552.108, the "law enforcement exception," provides in relevant part:

(a) 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:

(1) release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime; [or]

(2) 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[.]

. . .

(b) An internal record or notation of a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that is maintained for internal use in matters relating to law enforcement or prosecution is excepted from [required public disclosure] if:

(1) release of the internal record or notation would interfere with law enforcement or prosecution; [or]

(2) the internal record or notation relates to law enforcement only in relation to an investigation that did not result in conviction or deferred adjudication[.]

Gov't Code 552.108(a)(1)-(2), (b)(1)-(2). A governmental body that raises an exception to disclosure under section 552.108 must reasonably explain, if the requested information does not supply the explanation on its face, how and why the release of that information would interfere with law enforcement. See Gov't Code 552.301(e)(1)(A); Ex parte Pruitt, 551 S.W.2d 706 (Tex. 1977); Open Records Decision No. 434 at 2-3 (1986). In this instance, you indicate that you are raising subsections (a)(2) and (b)(2) of section 552.108. You state that the requested information pertains to a criminal investigation that did not result in a conviction or a deferred adjudication. However, you also tell us that the case was scheduled to be heard on August 7, 2000. We therefore understand you to be informing this office that the requested information relates to a pending criminal prosecution. Based on your reference to the pending court date and our review of the information in question, we find that you have demonstrated that the release of that information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime. See Gov't Code 552.108(a)(1); 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); Open Records Decision No. 624 at 5-6 (1994) (stating that where an incident allegedly involving criminal conduct remains under active investigation or prosecution, section 552.108 may be invoked by any proper custodian of related information). Therefore, we conclude that the requested arrest report is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108(a)(1).

We note, however, that section 552.108 does not except from disclosure "basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime." Gov't Code 552.108(c). Section 552.108(c) refers to the basic front-page information held to be public in Houston Chronicle. Thus, the department must release to the requestor the kind of information that is considered to be basic front-page information, including a detailed description of the offense, even if this information does not actually appear on the front page of the arrest report. See Houston Chronicle, 531 S.W.2d at 186-87; Open Records Decision No. 127 at 3-4 (1976) (summarizing the types of information deemed public by Houston Chronicle). The department may withhold the rest of the requested information under section 552.108(a)(1).

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).

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.

Sincerely,


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

JWM/ljp

Ref: ID# 139842

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Randall Isenberg
The Law Office of Randall Blair Isenberg, P.C.
5630 Yale Boulevard
Dallas, Texas 75206-2035
(w/o enclosures)


 

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