|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
December 27, 2000
Mr. Charles Allen, II
Dear Mr. Allen:
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# 142588.
The Richardson Police Department (the "department") received a request for a copy of accident report no. 00-65566. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and have reviewed the information you submitted.
Section 552.108(a) of the Government Code excepts from disclosure "[i]nformation held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime . . . if . . . 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[.]" Gov't Code § 552.108(a)(2). Section 552.108(b) excepts from disclosure "[a]n internal record or notation of a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that is maintained for internal use in matters relating to law enforcement or prosecution . . . if . . . the internal record or notation relates to law enforcement only in relation to an investigation that did not result in conviction or deferred adjudication[.]" Gov't Code § 552.108(b)(2). A governmental body that raises section 552.108 must reasonably explain, if the responsive information does not do so on its face, how and why section 552.108 is applicable. See Ex parte Pruitt, 551 S.W.2d 706 (Tex. 1977); Open Records Decision No. 434 at 2-3 (1986). A governmental body that raises section 552.108(a)(2) or section 552.108(b)(2) must demonstrate that the requested information relates to a concluded investigation or prosecution whose final result was not a conviction or a deferred adjudication. Because you assert that the requested information relates to a criminal investigation that has not yet resulted in a conviction or deferred adjudication, we find that you have not demonstrated that the investigation concluded in a final result other than a conviction or deferred adjudication. Furthermore, you do not assert that any other provision of section 552.108 is applicable. See also Gov't Code § 552.301(e)(1)(A) (governmental body must provide written comments stating the reasons why an exception to disclosure would allow requested information to be withheld). Therefore, we conclude that the department may not withhold the requested information under section 552.108(a)(2) or 552.108(b)(2).
We note, however, that a social security number may be excepted from disclosure 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 the social security number 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 any social security number contained in the submitted information is confidential under section 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I) of the federal law. 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 any social security number in the submitted information was obtained or is maintained pursuant to such a statute and is therefore confidential under the federal law. We caution you, however, that chapter 552 of the Government Code imposes criminal penalties for the release of confidential information. See Gov't Code §§ 552.007, 552.352. Therefore, prior to releasing any social security number, the department should ensure that the number was not obtained and is not maintained pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990.
We also note that the submitted information contains a Texas driver's license and driver's license number. Section 552.130 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. See Gov't Code § 552.130(a)(1). The department must withhold the responsive Texas driver's license and driver's license number in accordance with section 552.130 of the Government Code.
In summary, the department may not withhold the submitted information under section 552.108 of the Government Code. However, a social security number may be confidential under section 552.101 in conjunction with federal law, and the responsive Texas driver's license and driver's license number must be withheld in accordance with section 552.130. The rest of the submitted information is not excepted from disclosure and 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).
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 Hadassah Schloss at 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# 142588
Encl: Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Robert Beckley
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.