|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
December 22, 2000
Mr. Charles H. Weir
Dear Mr. Weir:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 142566.
The City of San Antonio (the "city") received a request for all information pertaining to an incident in which the requestor's son was shot in the leg and later died, including "911 tapes, all of the key sheets and the logs pertaining to this incident."(1) 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.
Section 552.108, the "law enforcement exception," provides in relevant part:
(a) [i]nformation held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime is excepted from the requirements of 552.021 if: (1) release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation or prosecution of crime . . . .
You inform us that the submitted information, which is San Antonio police investigative file number 00-521441, relates to an investigation that has been forwarded to the Bexar County District Attorney's office for prosecution. As the requested information relates to a pending criminal prosecution, we therefore find that release of the requested information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime and thus, it is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108(a)(1). 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).
However, we note that "basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime" is not excepted from required public disclosure. Gov't Code § 552.108(c). Basic information is 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. See generally Houston Chronicle Publ'g Co. v. City of Houston, 531 S.W.3d 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 basic information from the documents requested.
We further note that the submitted information includes arrest warrants and related supporting affidavits. If the warrants themselves have been filed with a court, then they are public and must be released. See Gov't Code § 552.022(a)(17) (providing for required public disclosure of information that also is a matter of public court record); see also Star-Telegram, Inc. v. Walker, 834 S.W.2d 54 (Tex. 1992).
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.
Michael A. Pearle
Ref: ID# 142566
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Bette Marquez Austin
1. 1We note that you did not submit any tapes to this office in response to the request. Chapter 552 of the Government Code does not require a governmental body to make available information which did not exist at the time the request was received. Open Records Decision No. 362 (1983); see Open Records Decision No. 452 (1986) (document not within chapter 552's purview if it does not exist when governmental body receives a request for it). However, if such tapes do exist and have not been provided to the requestor, they are presumed public and must be released unless a compelling reason exists to withhold them from disclosure. See Gov't Code §§ 552.301(e) and 552.302.
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