|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
January 19, 2000
Ms. Lisa Aguilar
Dear Ms. Aguilar:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 131471.
The City of Corpus Christi (the "city") received a request for police reports which list a certain individual as a suspect and which are dated December 12, 1998; June 27, 1999; July 26, 1999; and July 27, 1999, respectively. You explain that the city has no police reports listing the named individual as a suspect dated December 12, 1998 or July 27, 1999. The city does have police reports naming the individual as a suspect dated June 27, 1999 and July 26, 1999. The city has already released the report dated June 27, 1999 to the requestor. You claim that the remaining report, number 99-041197 dated July 26, 1999, 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.
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 state that the offense report at issue relates to a criminal prosecution which is pending in the 28th District Court in Nueces County. Accordingly, we conclude that the release of the offense report would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime. See Houston Chronicle Publ'g 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).
Section 552.108 is inapplicable to basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime. Gov't Code § 552.108(c). We believe such basic information refers to the information held to be public in 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). Thus, you must release the types of information that is considered to be front page offense report information regardless of whether the information is actually located on the front page of the report. Such basic information includes "a detailed description of the offense in question." Houston Chronicle Publishing Co., 531 S.W.2d at 187. Therefore, with the exception of the basic front page offense information, the city may withhold the offense report number 99-041197 under section 552.108(a)(1). Although section 552.108(a)(1) authorizes the county to withhold this information from disclosure, the county may choose to release all or part of the information that is not otherwise confidential by law. See Gov't Code § 552.007.
For example, the city must withhold the identity of the victim under section 552.101 of the Government Code. Section 552.101 of the Government Code protects "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision," including information coming within the common law right to privacy. Industrial Found. v. Texas Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977). Common law privacy protects information if it is highly intimate or embarrassing, such that its release would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person, and it is of no legitimate concern to the public. Id. at 683-85. In Industrial Foundation, the Texas Supreme Court held that information that relates to, among other things, sexual assault is intimate and embarrassing and is generally of no legitimate public interest. Id. at 683; see also Open Records Decision Nos. 393 (1983), 339 (1982). The offense report at issue here concerns an allegation of sexual assault. Therefore, while the city may withhold non-front page information under section 552.108(a)(1), it must withhold information that identifies the victim under section 552.101 in conjunction with common law privacy. We have marked the information that the city must withhold under section 552.101.
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.
E. Joanna Fitzgerald
Ref: ID# 131471
Encl: Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Nicole Perez
cc: Ms. Nicole Perez
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