Office of the ATTORNEY GENERAL
December 18, 2002
Ms. Elaine S. Hengen
Dear Ms. Hengen:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 173874.
The El Paso Police Department (the "department") received 61 requests from the same individual for information relating to 53 case numbers.(1) You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101 and 552.130 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and have reviewed the information you submitted.(2) We note that some of the submitted information is not responsive to any of the 61 requests. This decision does not address the non-responsive information, which we have marked accordingly.
Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." This exception encompasses the common-law right to privacy. Common-law privacy protects private facts about individuals. Information must be withheld from disclosure under section 552.101 in conjunction with common-law privacy when the information is (1) highly intimate or embarrassing, such that its release would be highly objectionable to a person of ordinary sensibilities, and (2) of no legitimate public interest. See Industrial Found. v. Texas Ind. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668, 685 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977). When a law enforcement agency has compiled criminal history information that pertains to a particular individual, the compiled information takes on a character that implicates the individual's right to privacy in a manner that the same information in an uncompiled state does not. See United States Dep't of Justice v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749 (1989); see also Open Records Decision No. 616 at 2-3 (1993).
You claim that the requested information is private under section 552.101 in conjunction with Reporters Committee. We note, however, that each of these 61 requests is for information relating to a specific case number, rather than for law enforcement records that involve any particular individual. Thus, we conclude that these requests for information do not implicate anyone's privacy rights. Therefore, the department may not withhold any of the requested information under section 552.101 in conjunction with Reporters Committee.
Common-law privacy under section 552.101 also protects the specific types of information that the Texas Supreme Court held to be intimate or embarrassing in Industrial Foundation. See 540 S.W.2d at 683 (information relating to sexual assault, pregnancy, mental or physical abuse in the workplace, illegitimate children, psychiatric treatment of mental disorders, attempted suicide, and injuries to sexual organs). This office has since concluded that other types of information also are private under section 552.101. See Open Records Decision Nos. 659 at 4-5 (1999) (summarizing information attorney general has determined to be private), 470 at 4 (1987) (illness from severe emotional job-related stress), 455 at 9 (1987) (prescription drugs, illnesses, operations, and physical handicaps), 343 at 1-2 (1982) (references in emergency medical records to a drug overdose, acute alcohol intoxication, obstetrical/gynecological illness, convulsions/seizures, or emotional/mental distress). We have marked information that the department must withhold under section 552.101 in conjunction with common-law privacy.
Section 552.101 also encompasses information that another statute makes confidential. You claim that some of the submitted information is confidential under section 58.007 of the Family Code. Section 58.007 provides in part:
(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.
Fam. Code § 58.007(c). Section 58.007(c) is applicable to records of juvenile conduct that occurred on or after September 1, 1997. See Act of June 2, 1997, 75th Leg., R.S., ch. 1086, §§ 20, 55(a), 1997 Tex. Gen. Laws 4179, 4187, 4199; Open Records Decision No. 644 (1996). The juvenile must have been at least 10 years old and less than 17 years of age when the conduct occurred. See Fam. Code § 51.02(2) (defining "child" for purposes of title 3 of Family Code). We have marked information that you must withhold under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 58.007 of the Family Code.
You also raise section 552.101 in conjunction with section 261.201 of the Family Code. Section 261.201 provides in relevant part:
(a) The following information is confidential, is not subject to public release under Chapter 552, Government Code, and may be disclosed only for purposes consistent with this code and applicable federal or state law or under rules adopted by an investigating agency:
(1) a report of alleged or suspected abuse or neglect made under this chapter and the identity of the person making the report; and
(2) except as otherwise provided in this section, the files, reports, records, communications, audiotapes, videotapes, and working papers used or developed in an investigation under this chapter or in providing services as a result of an investigation.
Fam. Code § 261.201(a). We have marked information that consists of files, reports, records, communications, and working papers used or developed in an investigation made under chapter 261 of the Family Code. See also Open Records Decision No. 440 at 2 (1986) (construing predecessor statute). You state that the department has no regulations that would allow the release of the information in question. We therefore conclude that you must withhold the marked information under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 261.201 of the Family Code.
A social security number may be confidential under section 552.101 in conjunction with 1990 amendments to the federal Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I), if a governmental body obtained or maintains the social security number pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990. 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 documents is confidential under section 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I) of the federal law. You have cited no law, and we are aware of no law, enacted on or after October 1, 1990 that authorizes the department to obtain or maintain a social security number. Thus, we have no basis for concluding that any social security number contained in the submitted documents was obtained or is maintained pursuant to such a law 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, .352. Therefore, before releasing a social security number, the department should ensure that it was not obtained and is not maintained pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990.
You also raise section 552.130 of the Government Code. Section 552.130 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[.]" If the driver's license numbers that we have marked are Texas driver's license numbers, they are excepted from disclosure under section 552.130.
In summary, the department must withhold some of the submitted information under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with common-law privacy, section 58.007 of the Family Code, and section 261.201 of the Family Code. A social security number may be excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 in conjunction with section 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I) of title 42 of the United States Code. A Texas driver's license number is excepted from disclosure under section 552.130. The rest of the submitted information 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 Texas Building and Procurement 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. We note that a third party may challenge this ruling by filing suit seeking to withhold information from a requestor. Gov't Code § 552.325. 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
c: Ms. Celeste Puente
1. You explain that the other eight requests are for duplicate case numbers.
2. This letter ruling assumes that the submitted representative sample of information is truly representative of the requested information as a whole. This ruling neither reaches nor authorizes the department to withhold any information that is substantially different from the submitted information. See Gov't Code § 552.301(e)(1)(D): Open Records Decision Nos. 499 at 6 (1988), 497 at 4 (1988).
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