|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
October 27, 2000
Ms. Lisa M. Salinas
Dear Ms. Salinas:
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 # 141711.
The Baytown Police Department (the "department") received a request for certain reports and statements obtained by a particular officer on a specified date. You claim that portions of the requested information are excepted from disclosure under sections 552.108 and 552.130 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and have reviewed the information you submitted.
Section 552.108(a)(1) of the Government Code excepts from disclosure information 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 requested information relates to a pending criminal case. Accordingly, we find that release of the information in question 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). Therefore, we conclude that the department may withhold the information it has marked with orange highlighting under section 552.108(a)(1).
We note that 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. See 531 S.W.2d at 186-87; Open Records Decision No. 127 at 3-4 (1976). The department must release basic front page offense and arrest information, including a detailed description of the offense, even if that information does not appear on the front page of the police report. We note that you have the discretion to release all or part of the remaining information that is not otherwise confidential by law. Gov't Code § 552.007.
You also assert that the pink highlighted information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.130. Section 552.130(a) of the Government Code excepts from disclosure 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, we agree that the highlighted Texas driver's license numbers must be withheld under section 552.130.
The submitted records also contain social security number information that may be confidential under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with 1990 amendments to the federal Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I), if that information was obtained or is maintained by a governmental body pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990.(1) See Open Records Decision No. 622 at 2-4 (1994). It is not apparent to this office that the social security number information in question was obtained or is maintained by the department pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990. You have cited no law, nor are we are aware of any law, enacted on or after October 1, 1990, that authorizes the department to obtain or maintain a social security number. Therefore, we have no basis for concluding that the information in question was obtained or is maintained pursuant to such a law and is therefore confidential under section 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I) of the federal law. We caution you, however, that section 552.352 of the Government Code imposes criminal penalties for the release of confidential information. Therefore, prior to releasing any social security number contained in the submitted records, the department should ensure that the social security number was not obtained and is not maintained pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990.
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).
Please remember that under the Act the release of information triggers certain procedures for costs and charges to the requestor. If records are released in compliance with this ruling, be sure that all charges for the information are at or below the legal amounts. Questions or complaints about over-charging must be directed to the General Services Commission at 512/475-2497
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.
James W. Morris, III
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division
Ref: ID# 141711
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Joetta Summers
1. Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Gov't Code § 552.101. Unlike other exceptions to disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code, this office will raise section 552.101 on behalf of a governmental body. See Open Records Decision No. 325 (1982) (raising statutory predecessor).
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