|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
May 4, 1999
Lieutenant Terry Lichtie
Dear Lieutenant Lichtie:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 125826.
The City of Amarillo Police Department received a request for "adjudicated information on" a named individual including investigative and incident reports, complaints, and photographs and videotapes." You seek to withhold the requested information under section 552.101 of the Government Code.
Section 552.101 requires withholding, inter alia, information made by judicial decision. You invoke the common-law privacy aspect of section 552.101. A law enforcement agency's release of criminal history records responsive to a general request for a particular individual's criminal history would violate that individual's common-law privacy rights. Houston Chronicle Publishing Co. v. City of Houston, 531 S.W.2d 177, 179 and 188 (Tex. Civ. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1975), writ ref'd n.r.e. per curiam, 536 S.W.2d 559 (Tex. 1976). See also, United States Dep't of Justice v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749 (1989). The request here, however, is not limited to criminal history information about the named individual, and, moreover, the information you have submitted as responsive is not criminal history information about him: it does not treat him as having been suspected of, charged with, or convicted of a crime. Nor do the submitted records contain information otherwise protected by common-law privacy. Therefore, you may not withhold the submitted information under common-law privacy.
You also contend that the requested records include an accident report subject to article 6701d of Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes.(1) However, the accident report you submitted is not one subject to article 6701d. See id. § 45(b), now Trans. Code § 550.063 (accident reports under these provisions to be on official forms). Thus the submitted report is not subject to the restrictions on release in article 6701b. It 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 upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.
Ref.: ID# 125826
encl. Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Joe Hays
1. The Seventy-Fifth Legislature, repealed, codified, and amended V.T.C.S. article 6701d, concerning the disclosure of accident report information. Act of May 29, 1997, S.B. 1069, §13, 75th Leg., R.S. (to be codified at Transp. Code §550.065). However, a Travis County district court has issued a temporary injunction enjoining the enforcement of section 13 of SB 1069. Texas Daily Newspaper Association v. Morales, No. 97-08930 (345th Dist. Ct., Travis County, Tex., Aug. 29, 1997) (order granting temporary injunction). A temporary injunction preserves the status quo until the final hearing of a case on its merits. Janus Films, Inc. v. City of Fort Worth, 358 S.W.2d 589 (1962). The status quo of accident report information prior to the enactment of SB 1069 is governed by section 47 of article 6701d, V.T.C.S.(2)
2. Although the Seventy-Fourth Legislature repealed and codified article 6701d as part of the Transportation Code, the legislature did not intend a substantive change of the law but merely a recodification of existing law. Act of May 1, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S., ch. 165, §§ 24, 25 1995 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 1025, 1870-71. Furthermore, the Seventy-Fourth Legislature, without reference to the repeal and codification of V.T.C.S. article 6701d, amended section 47 of article 6701d, V.T.C.S., relating to the disclosure of accident reports. Act of May 27, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S., ch. 894, §1, 1995 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 4413, 4414. Because the repeal of a statute by a code does not affect an amendment of the statute by the same legislature which enacted the code, the amendment is preserved and given effect as part of the code provision. Gov't Code § 311.031(c). Thus, the amendment of section 47 of article 6701d, V.T.C.S. is the existing law regarding the availability of accident report information, and may be found following section 550.065 of the Transportation Code. See also Act of May 27, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S., ch. 894, §1, 1995 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 4413, 4414. §
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