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December 1, 1999

Lieutenant Brad Lancaster
Amarillo Police Department
200 S E 3rd
Amarillo Texas 79101-1515

OR99-3447

Dear Lieutenant Lancaster:

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# 130060.

The Amarillo Police Department (the "department") received a written request for the following information:

Any and all reports, statements, investigative materials, official notes, official records, hand-written notes and/or accident reports regarding any and all automobile accidents which occurred in Amarillo, Texas, on March 12, 1999.

You have not submitted to this office any documents that you contend are excepted from required public disclosure. See Gov't Code 552.301(e)(1)(D). You contend, however, that because the requestor did not provide the department with certain information, all "Peace Officer Accident Reports" that would be responsive to the request must be withheld pursuant to article 6701d, V.T.C.S.

The Seventy-fifth Legislature, repealed, codified, and amended V.T.C.S. article 6701d, concerning the disclosure of "Peace Officer Accident Reports." Act of May 29, 1997, S.B. 1069, 13, 75th Leg., R.S. (to be codified at Transp. Code 550.065). However, a Travis County district court has issued a temporary injunction enjoining the enforcement of section 13 of SB 1069. Texas Daily Newspaper Association v. Morales, No. 97-08930 (345th Dist. Ct., Travis County, Tex., Aug. 29, 1997) (order granting temporary injunction). A temporary injunction preserves the status quo until the final hearing of a case on its merits. Janus Films, Inc. v. City of Fort Worth, 358 S.W.2d 589 (1962). The Supreme Court has defined the status quo as "the last, actual peaceable, non-contested status that preceded the pending controversy." Texas v. Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. 526 S.W.2d 526, 528 (Tex. 1975). The status quo of accident report information prior to the enactment of SB 1069 is governed by section 47 of article 6701d.(1)

Section 47(b)(1) provides that:

The Department [of Public Safety] or a law enforcement agency employing a peace officer who made an accident report is required to release a copy of the report on request to:

. . . .

(D) a person who provides the Department or the law enforcement agency with two or more of the following:

(i) the date of the accident;

(ii) the name of any person involved in the accident; or

(iii) the specific location of the accident.

V.T.C.S. art. 6701d, 47(b)(1) (emphasis added). Under this provision, a law enforcement agency "is required to release" a copy of such an accident report to a person who provides the law enforcement agency with two or more pieces of information specified by the statute. Id. In this instance, we agree that the requestor has not provided the department with the required information. Thus, to the extent that they exist, the department must withhold the "Peace Officer Accident Reports" in their entirety pursuant to section 47(b)(1)(D) of article 6701d, V.T.C.S.

We note, however, that the requestor has not limited her request to "Peace Officer Accident Reports." Presumably, the department also maintains other types of records that are responsive to the request, such as 911 tape recordings, police dispatch records, and incident reports. A governmental body should always make a good faith effort to relate documents it holds with those being requested. See, e.g., Open Records Decision No. 87 (1975). You have not argued that such records are excepted from public disclosure, nor have you submitted such records to this office for review. We conclude, therefore, that to the extent that the department maintains such records, those records are now presumed to be public and must be released to the requestor unless those records are made confidential by law. See Gov't Code 552.301, .302.

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,

Carla Gay Dickson
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

CGD/RWP/nc

Ref.: ID# 130060

cc: Ms. Becky Loewenstern
Lobby Box 223
Amarillo, Texas 779101-2445
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. Although the Seventy-fourth Legislature repealed and codified article 6701d as part of the Transportation Code, the legislature did not intend a substantive change of the law but merely a recodification of existing law. Act of May 1, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S., ch. 165, 24, 25 1995 Tex. Gen. Laws 1025, 1870-71. Furthermore, the Seventy-fourth Legislature, without reference to the repeal and codification of V.T.C.S. article 6701d, amended section 47 of article 6701d, V.T.C.S., relating to the disclosure of accident reports. Act of May 27, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S., ch. 894, 1, 1995 Tex. Gen. Laws 4413, 4414. Because the repeal of a statute by a code does not affect an amendment of the statute by the same legislature which enacted the code, the amendment is preserved and given effect as part of the code provision. Gov't Code 311.031(c). Thus, the amendment of section 47 of article 6701d, V.T.C.S. is the existing law regarding the availability of accident report information, and may be found following section 550.065 of the Transportation Code. See also Act of May 27, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S., ch. 894, 1, 1995 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 4413, 4414.
 

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