|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
April 24, 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# 134673.
The City of Corpus Christi Police Department (the "department") received four requests from the same requestor which collectively seek police reports from January 1, 1990 to February 21, 2000 involving eight named individuals. You have provided for our review information that is responsive to the requests. You assert that this information, in its entirety, is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Section 552.101 of the Government Code protects "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision," including information protected by the common law right of privacy. Industrial Found. v. Texas Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668, 683-85 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977). 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) (concluding that federal regulations which limit access to criminal history record information that states obtain from the federal government or other states recognize privacy interest in such information). Similarly, open records decisions issued by this office acknowledge this privacy interest. See Open Records Decision Nos. 616 (1993), 565 (1990). We find that the requests implicate the privacy interests of the named individuals, but only to the extent that the information responsive to the requests consists of criminal history compilations. We thus determine you must not release to the requestor any of the submitted documents, except as noted below.
If a named individual is identified in a document which relates to a specific incident, and the individual is identified in a capacity other than that of suspect, arrestee, or offender, we do not believe that the release of the document necessarily implicates the privacy interests of the named individual under the above-cited provisions. See, e.g., Open Records Decision Nos. 628 at 4-5 (1994) (finding the names of victims of crime to generally not implicate the victim's privacy interests, and describing the types of crime victim information protected by common law privacy), 616 at 2 (1993) (distinguishing a "mug shot" as not protected by privacy interests, in part, because it is not contained in a compilation of the individual's criminal history). Thus, some of the submitted documents, which we have marked with red flags, do not implicate the privacy interests of any of the individuals named in the requests. As you have asserted no other exception with reference to the documents we have marked, we conclude the marked documents must be released to the requestor.(1) However, as noted below, you must redact certain information from these documents prior to their release.
Section 552.130 of the Government Code governs the release and use of motor vehicle record information. Section 552.130 provides:
(a) Information is excepted from [required public disclosure] if the information relates to:
(1) a motor vehicle operator's or driver's license or permit issued by an agency of this state;
(2) a motor vehicle title or registration issued by an agency of this state; or
(3) a personal identification document issued by an agency of this state or a local agency authorized to issue an identification document.
Gov't Code § 552.130. This provision protects information such as Texas driver's license numbers, license plate numbers, and vehicle identification numbers. In accordance with this provision, we have marked for redaction the information in the red-flagged documents that is implicated under section 552.130(a), and we determine you must not release this information.
In summary, you must withhold all of the submitted documents, except those documents that we have marked with a red flag. You must redact from the red-flagged documents the specific information we have marked. The red-flagged documents otherwise must be released.
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.
Ref: ID# 134673
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Mr. John Tedesco
1. The documents we have marked for release indicate there exists offense reports related to those documents, yet you have not submitted for our review the related offense reports. A governmental body must make a good faith effort to relate a request to information which it holds. Open Records Decision No. 561 at 8 (1990). We therefore believe the related offense reports are responsive to the present request, and must also be released. However, because you have not submitted the related offense reports for our review, we are unable to ascertain whether the related offense reports contain confidential information. We caution that the Public Information Act provides for criminal penalties for the improper release of confidential information. See Gov't Code § 552.352.
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