|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
December 9, 1999
Mr. Gary W. Smith
Dear Mr. Smith:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Public Information Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 130154.
The Baytown Police Department (the "department") received a request for information relating to a specific sexual assault case. You claim that the requested documents are excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101 and 552.108 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and have reviewed the submitted information.
Section 552.108, the "law enforcement exception," provides in relevant part as follows:
(a) Information 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; [or] (2) it is information that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime only in relation to an investigation that did not result in conviction or deferred adjudication[.]
A governmental body claiming section 552.108(a)(2) must demonstrate that the requested information relates to a criminal investigation that has concluded in a final result other than a conviction or deferred adjudication. You explain that "[t]he case was presented to the grand jury of Chambers County, which returned a no bill." We conclude that you have shown the applicability of section 552.108(a)(2) to the requested information.(1) Therefore, we conclude that most of the information you have marked in Exhibit B may be withheld under section 552.108(a)(2).
You also seek to withhold the victim's identifying information under section 552.101. Generally, the identity of the victim or complainant may not be withheld from public disclosure. See Gov't Code § 552.108(c). However, information tending to identify victims of serious sexual offenses must be withheld from public disclosure pursuant to section 552.101 because such information is protected by common-law privacy. See Open Records Decision Nos. 440 (1986), 393 (1983), 339 (1982).
On the other hand, the identity of the suspect is not protected from disclosure under a right of privacy. Furthermore, we do not believe that the suspect's identity is protected by statute. Therefore, in accordance with Houston Chronicle, you must release the remaining basic information, including the suspect's identifying information, to the requestor. See Gov't Code § 552.108(c); Open Records Decision No. 127 (1976) (summarizing types of information deemed public by Houston Chronicle).
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).
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.
June B. Harden
Ref: ID# 130154
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Ingrid Joseph
1. Although you cite 552.108(a)(1), we assume, based on your arguments, that you intended to cite 552.108(a)(2) for this portion of your argument.
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