|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
August 7, 2000
Mr. Kevin Oliver
Dear Mr. Oliver:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID # 139016.
The City of Coppell (the "city"), which you represent, received a request for police report number 00-23223. You claim that 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 have reviewed the submitted information.
Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision," thus encompassing information made confidential by statute. Law enforcement records relating to delinquent conduct that occurred on or after September 1, 1997 are confidential under section 58.007 of the Family Code. The relevant language of section 58.007(c) reads as follows:
(c) Except as provided by Subsection (d), law enforcement records and files concerning a child and information stored, by electronic means or otherwise, concerning the child from which a record or file could be generated may not be disclosed to the public and shall be:
(1) if maintained on paper or microfilm, kept separate from adult files and records;
(2) if maintained electronically in the same computer system as records or files relating to adults, be accessible under controls that are separate and distinct from controls to access electronic data concerning adults; and
(3) maintained on a local basis only and not sent to a central state or federal depository, except as provided by Subchapter B. [Emphasis added.]
The above confidentiality provision applies to information regarding individuals who have not yet reached the age of seventeen at the time of the offense, or who have not yet reached the age of eighteen if the offense occurred prior to their seventeenth birthday. Fam. Code § 51.02. The submitted report does not indicate the age of the individual investigated as a suspect in this matter. If the individual had not reached the age of seventeen as of the date of the offense, then the requested documents pertain to an instance of delinquent conduct that occurred on or after September 1, 1997, and the department must withhold the records at issue in their entirety pursuant to section 58.007(c) of the Family Code. If, however, the individual was at least seventeen years of age or older at the time of the offense, the information may not be withheld under section 58.007 of the Family Code.
Since we are unable to make a determination under section 552.101, we will consider your claim that section 552.108 excepts from disclosure the requested information. Section 552.108(a)(1) excepts from required public disclosure
(a) Information held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime . . . if:
(1) release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime[.]
You advise that the police report at issue relates to a pending criminal investigation. Based on your representation, and having reviewed the information at issue, we conclude that, except as noted below, you may withhold the report at issue under section 552.108(a)(1).
Please note that section 552.108 does not except from required public disclosure "basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime." Gov't Code § 552.108(c). The city must release these types of information in accordance with Houston Chronicle Publishing Company 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).
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.
Carla Gay Dickson
Ref: ID# 139016
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Christopher Hutson