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December 1, 2000

Chief Don Hatcher
City of Leander Police Department
P.O. Box 319
Leander, Texas 78646-0319

OR2000-4579

Dear Chief Hatcher:

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# 142788.

The City of Leander Police Department (the "department ") received a request for a specified police report. You claim that the requested 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 58.007 of the Family Code makes certain law enforcement records confidential. Family Code section 51.04(a) states that the Juvenile Justice Code, Title 3 of the Family Code, "covers the proceedings in all cases involving the delinquent conduct or conduct indicating the need for supervision engaged in by a person who was a child within the meaning of [Title 3] at the time he engaged in the conduct." "Child" is defined as a person who is ten years of age or older and under 17 years of age or a person who is a older than seventeen years of age and younger than 18 years of age and is 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. Fam Code 51.02(1). Thus, section 58.007 deems confidential law enforcement records of conduct indicating the need for supervision engaged in by an individual who was between ten and seventeen years of age at the time of the conduct. From our review of the submitted information we cannot determine the age of the individual involved in conduct in need of supervision. If this individual was between the ages of ten and seventeen at the time of the incident, the submitted records are made confidential by section 58.007 of the Family Code.

In the event that the individual in question was not a "child" at the time of the incident, we address your other claims. You claim that the responsive information is excepted from disclosure by section 552.108 of the Government Code. Section 552.108(a) excepts from disclosure "[i]nformation held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime . . . if: (1) release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime." Generally, a governmental body claiming section 552.108 must reasonably explain, if the information does not supply the explanation on its face, how and why the release of the requested information would interfere with law enforcement. See Gov't Code 552.108(a)(1), (b)(1), .301(e)(1)(a); see also Ex parte Pruitt, 551 S.W.2d 706 (Tex. 1977). You state that the requested offense report relates to a pending criminal investigation. Based upon this representation, we conclude that the release of the offense report 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).

We note, however, that information normally found on the front page of an offense report is generally considered public. See generally Gov't Code 552.108(c); 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); Open Records Decision No. 127 (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 offense report.

In conclusion, if the suspect identified in the subject report was between the ages of ten and seventeen years at the time of the incident, the submitted records must be withheld in their entirety under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 58.007 of the Family Code. Otherwise "basic information" must be released and the remaining information may be withheld under section 552.108(a)(1) of the Government Code.

As the above discussion resolves this decision, your argument under section 552.108 of the Government Code will not be addressed. 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 Hadassah Schloss at 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,

Michael Jay Burns
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

MJB/er

Ref: ID# 142788

Encl: Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Melanie Dawn Stone
1406 Deepwoods Trail
Leander, Texas 78641
(w/o enclosures)


 

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