|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
November 19, 1999
Lieutenant Arturo Valdez
Dear Lieutenant Valdez:
You have asked whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 129568.
You state that the City of McAllen Police Department (the "department") received a request for offense report number 99-27099. We note that you did not submit a copy of the request for information as required by section 552.301(e). You claim the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 51.14(d) of the Texas Family Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Pursuant to section 552.301(e), a governmental body is required to submit to this office within fifteen business days of receiving an open records request (1) general written comments stating the reasons why the stated exceptions apply that would allow the information to be withheld, (2) a copy of the written request for information, (3) a signed statement or sufficient evidence showing the date the governmental body received the written request, and (4) a copy of the specific information requested or representative samples, labeled to indicate which exceptions apply to which parts of the documents. Act of May 25, 1999, 76th Leg., R.S., ch. 1319, § 20, 1999 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 4500, 4508 (Vernon) (to be codified as an amendment to Gov't Code § 552.301(e)). You did not comply with section 552.301(e) because you did not submit a copy of the written request for information.
Under section 552.302, a governmental body's failure to submit to this office the information required in section 552.301(e) results in the legal presumption that the information is public and must be released. Act of May 25, 1999, 76th Leg., R.S., ch. 1319, § 21, 1999 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 4500, 4509 (Vernon) (to be codified as an amendment to Gov't Code § 552.302). Information that is presumed public must be released unless a governmental body demonstrates a compelling reason to withhold the information to overcome this presumption. See Hancock v. State Bd. of Ins., 797 S.W.2d 379, 381-82 (Tex. App.--Austin 1990, no writ) (governmental body must make a compelling demonstration to overcome presumption of openness pursuant to statutory predecessor to Gov't Code § 552.302); Open Records Decision No. 319 (1982).
Normally, a compelling reason is that some other source of law makes the information confidential or that third party interests are at stake. Open Records Decision No. 150 at 2 (1977). Therefore, we will consider whether offense report number 99-27099 is confidential and must be withheld from public disclosure. Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Section 552.101 encompasses confidentiality provisions such as Family Code section 58.007. Juvenile law enforcement records relating to conduct that occurred on or after September 1, 1997 are confidential under section 58.007. The relevant language of section 58.007(c), as amended by the Seventy-sixth Legislature,(1) 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.
The information at issue involves juvenile conduct that occurred after September 1, 1997. It does not appear that any of the exceptions in section 58.007 apply; therefore, the requested information is confidential pursuant to section 58.007(c) of the Family Code. You must withhold the information from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code.
We are resolving this matter with this 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 may not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.
Encl.: Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Maria Teodora Olivarez
1. Act of May 26, 1999, 76th Leg., R.S., ch. 815, § 1, 1999 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 3448 (Vernon) (to be codified as an amendment to Fam. Code § 58.007).
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