|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
March 17, 1999
Mr. Raymond D. Martinez
Dear Mr. Martinez:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Texas Open Records Act (the "act"), chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 122867.
The City of Dallas Police Department (the "department") received a request for the photographs of an automobile accident scene. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.119 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Section 552.301(a) of the Government Code provides in part that:
A governmental body that receives a written request for information that it wishes to withhold from public disclosure and that it considers to be within one of the [act's] exceptions . . . must ask for a decision from the attorney general about whether the information is within that exception if there has not been a previous determination about whether the information falls within one of the exceptions. The governmental body must ask for the attorney general's decision and state the exceptions that apply within a reasonable time but not later than the 10th business day after the date of receiving the request.
In this case, this office did not receive the request for a decision within the ten business day period mandated by section 552.301(a). Because the request for a decision was not timely received, the requested information is presumed to be public information. Gov't Code § 552.302; see Hancock v. State Bd. of Ins., 797 S.W.2d 379 (Tex. App.--Austin 1990, no writ).
In order to overcome the presumption that the requested information is public information, a governmental body must provide compelling reasons why the information should not be disclosed. Hancock, 797 S.W.2d at 381; see Open Records Decision No. 630 (1994). The applicability of section 552.119 is such a compelling reason.
Section 552.119 excepts from public disclosure a photograph of a peace officer(1) that, if released, would endanger the life or physical safety of the officer unless one of three exceptions applies. The three exceptions are: (1) the officer is under indictment or charged with an offense by information; (2) the officer is a party in a fire or police civil service hearing or a case in arbitration; or (3) the photograph is introduced as evidence in a judicial proceeding. This section also provides that a photograph exempt from disclosure under this section may be made public only if the peace officer gives written consent to the disclosure. Open Records Decision No. 502 (1988). The submitted copies of photographs depict peace officers and it does not appear that any of the exceptions are applicable. You have not informed us that the peace officers have executed any written consents to disclosure. Thus, we agree that you may redact those portions of the photographs depicting peace officers; the remainder of the photographs must be released.
We are resolving this matter with an informal letter ruling rather than with a published open records decision. This ruling is limited to the particular records at issue under the facts presented to us in this request and should not be relied on as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have any questions regarding this ruling, please contact our office.
Yours very truly,
Enclosures: Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Ann H. Washburn
1. "Peace officer" is defined by article 2.12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
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