|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
November 21, 2000
Lieutenant Javier Gonzalez
Dear Lt. Gonzalez:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 141544.
The Pharr Police Department (the "department") received a request for criminal juvenile records regarding the requestor. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 51.14 of the Family Code. We have considered the exception 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." Accordingly, section 552.101 encompasses confidentiality provisions such as Family Code sections 51.14 and 58.007. Prior to its repeal by the Seventy-fourth Legislature, section 51.14(d) of the Family Code provided for the confidentiality of juvenile law enforcement records. Law enforcement records pertaining to conduct occurring before January 1, 1996 are governed by the former section 51.14(d), which was continued in effect for that purpose. Act of May 27, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S., ch. 262, § 100, 1995 Tex. Gen. Laws 2517, 2591 (Vernon). This office has concluded that section 58.007 of the Family Code, as enacted by the Seventy-fourth Legislature, does not make confidential juvenile law enforcement records relating to conduct that occurred on or after January 1, 1996. Open Records Decision No. 644 (1996). The Seventy-fifth Legislature, however, amended section 58.007 to once again make juvenile law enforcement records confidential, effective September 1, 1997. Act of June 2, 1997, 75th Leg., R.S., ch. 1086, 1997 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 4179, 4187 (Vernon). The Seventy-fifth Legislature chose not to make this most recent amendment retroactive in application. Consequently, law enforcement records pertaining to juvenile conduct that occurred between January 1, 1996 and September 1, 1997, are not subject to the confidentiality provisions of either section 51.14(d) or the current section 58.007 of the Family Code.
The submitted records consist of a series of law enforcement records regarding juveniles. Most of these records concern juvenile conduct that occurred prior to January 1, 1996. Because none of the exceptions to confidentiality enumerated in section 51.14(d) applies in this case, these records are confidential under section 552.101 in conjunction with section 51.14 of the Family Code. However, two documents pertain to juvenile conduct that occurred on September 4, 1996, and one document pertains to juvenile conduct that occurred on June 14, 1996. These three documents fall within the window of time when neither Family Code provision was effective. Therefore, the department must withhold most of the submitted records under section 552.101 in conjunction with section 52.14 of the Family Code. However, the department must release the three documents that we have marked.
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.
E. Joanna Fitzgerald
Ref: ID# 141544
Encl: Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Salvador Hernandez
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US