|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
September 13, 1999
Lieutenant Brad Lancaster
Dear Lt. Lancaster:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 128668.
The City of Amarillo (the "city") received a request for police investigation reports, field interview reports, and jail records or reports regarding a specific individual. 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.
First, you claim that all of the submitted documents trigger common-law privacy concerns and are therefore excepted from disclosure pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code. Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Accordingly, section 552.101 encompasses common-law privacy. Where an individual's criminal history information has been compiled by a governmental entity, the information takes on a character that implicates the individual's right to privacy. See United States Dep't of Justice v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749 (1989). However, in this instance, none of the submitted documents constitutes a compilation of criminal history regarding the individual in question. Thus, we conclude that common-law privacy, as encompassed by section 552.101, is not implicated in this case.
In regard to the submitted accident reports,(1) their release is governed by a statute outside the Public Information Act. Open Records Decision No. 525 (1989) (act's exceptions do not generally apply to information made public by other statutes). The Seventy-fifth Legislature, repealed V.T.C.S. article 6701d, and amended section 550.065 of the Transportation Code concerning the disclosure of accident report information. Act of May 29, 1997, 75th Leg., R.S. ch. 1187, 1997 Tex. Gen. Laws 4575, 4582-4583 (to be codified at Transp. Code § 550.065). However, a Travis County district court has issued a temporary injunction enjoining the enforcement of the amendment to section 550.065 of the Transportation Code. Texas Daily Newspaper Ass'n, v. Morales, No. 97-08930 (345th Dist. Ct., Travis County, Tex., Oct. 24, 1997) (second amended agreed 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 supreme court has defined the status quo as "the last, actual peaceable, non-contested status that preceded the pending controversy." Texas v. Southwestern Bell Tel. Co., 526 S.W.2d 526, 528 (Tex. 1975). The status quo of accident report information prior to the enactment of S.B. 1069 is governed by section 47 of article 6701d, V.T.C.S.(2)
Section 47(b)(1) provides that:
The Department or a law enforcement agency employing a peace officer who made an accident report is required to release a copy of the report on request to:
. . . .
(D) a person who provides the Department or the law enforcement agency with two or more of the following:
(i) the date of the accident;
(ii) the name of any person involved in the accident; or
(iii) the specific location of the accident.
V.T.C.S. art. 6701d, § 47(b)(1) (emphasis added). Under this provision, a law enforcement agency "is required to release" a copy of an accident report to a person who provides the law enforcement agency with two or more pieces of information specified by the statute. Id. In this case, the requestor has not provided the city with the required information, and therefore, the city may not release the accident reports to the requestor under section 47(b)(1)(D) of article 6701d, V.T.C.S.
In regard to the incident report numbers 92-17730 and 92-94869, you appear to argue that they are excepted by section 552.108(a)(1) of the Government Code. Section 552.108(a)(1) of the Government Code 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." Generally, a governmental body claiming an exception under 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(b)(1); see also Ex parte Pruitt, 551 S.W.2d 706 (Tex. 1977). You state that the investigations are ongoing. However, the offenses described in both incident reports, burglary and larceny theft, can no longer be prosecuted because the five-year statute of limitations has run on both offenses. See Code Crim. Proc. art. 12.01(4)(A). You have not explained how or why release of the requested reports would interfere with the investigation of offenses for which the statute of limitations has run. Thus, we conclude that you may not withhold these incident reports under section 552.108(a)(1).
Finally, in regard to the remaining incident reports, numbers 96-99067 and 93-61190, these reports must be disclosed because they do not contain any private information, and you have not asserted any other exception to public disclosure. However, section 552.130 excepts information that relates to a motor vehicle operator's or driver's license or permit issued by an agency of this state or a motor vehicle title or registration issued by an agency of this state. Therefore, you must withhold the license plate number contained in report number 93-61190 in accordance with the marked redaction.
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.
E. Joanna Fitzgerald
Ref: ID# 128668
Encl: Marked documents
cc: Charly Hopkins
1. By "accident reports," we refer to the two forms prepared by Texas Peace Officers and not to the corresponding incident reports prepared by the Amarillo Police Department.
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. Gen. Laws 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. Gen. Laws 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. Gen. Laws 4413, 4414.
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