|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
August 3, 1999
Mr. Chuck Houghton
Dear Mr. Houghton:
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# 127138.
The Wood County Sheriff's Department (the "department") received an open records request for the complete arrest and jail records of a named individual in connection with two specified offenses. We note at the outset that you have not raised any specific exception to public disclosure with regard to the requested records. However, because you cite to Open Records Decision No. 127 (1976) as authority for withholding the photographs and fingerprints of the named individual, we will infer that you intended to raise the "law-enforcement" exception for these two types of documents.(1)
Section 552.108(a)(1) excepts from disclosure "[i]nformation held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime . . . if . . . release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime." You inform us that the conviction of the named individual for one of the referenced offenses is currently under appeal. Based upon this representation, we conclude that you have demonstrated the applicability of section 552.108(a)(1) to the photograph and fingerprints taken in connection with Cause No. 14,231-95. See Houston Chronicle Publishing 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). The department may withhold these two records pursuant to section 552.108(a)(1). Because you have not established that any other photographs or fingerprints relating to Cause No. 23,843 are excepted from public disclosure, those records must be released.
You also object to the requestor's request for "jail records" as being too broad. A request for records made pursuant to the Public Information Act may not be disregarded simply because a citizen does not specify the exact documents desired. When a requestor makes a vague or broad request, the governmental body should make a good faith effort to advise the requestor of the type of documents available so that the requestor may narrow the request. See Open Records Decision No. 87 (1975). This office does not consider this request as being vague or overly broad so as to not inform the department of the records being requested. Because you have not raised an exception to required public disclosure for the jail records, these records are presumed to be public and must be released to the requestor unless compelling reasons exist for non-disclosure.(2) The department may, however, advise the requestor at this time of the types of records held by the jail so that she may specifically identify the records she seeks.
We are resolving this matter with this 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 may not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.
Michael Jay Burns
Ref.: ID# 127138
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Jana Randall
1. Because you do not argue that any other "arrest" records are excepted from required public disclosure, we assume the department has made those records available to the requestor. If it has not, it must do so at this time. See Gov't Code §§ 552.301, .302.
2. Because you have not submitted copies of the jail records to this office for review, we are unable to determine whether any information contained therein is deemed confidential by law. See Open Records Decision No. 150 (1977).
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US