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November 10, 1999

Mr. Duncan R. Fox
Assistant Chief, Legal Services
Texas Department of Public Safety
Box 4087
Austin, Texas 78773-0001

OR99-3197

Dear Mr. Fox :

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 130708.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (the "department") received a request for information regarding a September 24, 1999 accident involving two named individuals. You indicate that you will be making the accident report available to the requestor. You assert that some of the requested information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.103 and 552.108 of the Government Code. You have provided for our review an offense report, which you indicate to be a "representative sample" of the information you claim is excepted from disclosure.(1) We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.108 of the Government Code provides in part:

(a) Information held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime is excepted from the requirements of Section 552.021 if:

(1) release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime; [or]

(2) 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[.]

* * *

(c) This section does not except from the requirements of Section 552.021 information that is basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime.

Gov't Code 552.108. Generally, a governmental body claiming an exception under section 552.108 must reasonably explain, if the information does not supply the explanation on its face, how and why the release of the requested information would interfere with law enforcement. See Gov't Code 552.108(a)(1), (b)(1), .301(b)(1); see also Ex parte Pruitt, 551 S.W.2d 706 (Tex. 1977). You indicate that the requested information concerns an ongoing criminal investigation. You state that the department anticipates filing charges related to the accident. We accordingly find that you have shown that the release of the requested information 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) ; Open Records Decision No. 216 (1978). Thus, we conclude that the requested information may be withheld under section 552.108(a)(1).

We note, however, that information normally found on the front page of an offense report is generally considered public. 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); Open Records Decision No. 127 (1976). Thus, you must release the type of information that is considered to be front page offense report information, even if this information is not actually located on the front page of the offense report.(2) Gov't Code 552.108(c); see Houston Chronicle, 531 S.W.2d at 187.

Because we make a determination under section 552.108, we do not address your additional argument against disclosure. We are resolving this matter with an informal letter ruling rather than with a published open records decision. This ruling is limited to the particular records at issue under the facts presented to us in this request and should not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.

Sincerely,

Michael Garbarino
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

MG/jc

Ref: ID# 130708

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Joseph S. Hinton
J.S. Hinton & Associates, Inc.
P.O. Box 10685
Houston, Texas 77206
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. In reaching our conclusion here, we assume that the "representative sample" of records submitted to this office is truly representative of the requested records as a whole. See Open Records Decision Nos. 499 (1988), 497 (1988). This open records letter does not reach and, therefore, does not authorize the withholding of any other requested records to the extent that those records contain substantially different types of information than that submitted to this office.

2. Front page offense report information is not excepted from disclosure under section 552.103of the Government Code; see Open Records Decision No. 362 (1983).
 

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