|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
January 13, 2000
Ms. Lillian Guillen Graham
Dear Ms. Graham:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 132590.
The City of Mesquite (the "city") received a request for "police calls" to a specified address and the "criminal charge record" of a named individual. You seek to withhold portions of the requested information under sections 552.101 and 552.130 of the Government Code.
Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Section 552.101 incorporates common law privacy protections. Industrial Found. v. Texas Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977). For information to be protected from public disclosure by the common law right of privacy under section 552.101, the information must meet the criteria set out in Industrial Foundation. In Industrial Foundation, the Texas Supreme Court stated that information is excepted from disclosure if (1) the information contains highly intimate or embarrassing facts the release of which would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person and (2) the information is not of legitimate concern to the public. 540 S.W.2d at 685.
In United States Department of Justice v. Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749 (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that where an individual's criminal history is compiled or summarized by a governmental entity, the information takes on a character that implicates individual's right of privacy in a manner that the same individual records in an uncompiled state do not. Accordingly, the requested "criminal charge record" must be withheld under the common law privacy principles set out in the Reporters Committee case.
You contend that social security numbers included in the requested information are also protected from disclosure by common law privacy. It is the position of this office that social security numbers are not protected by common law privacy. See Open Records Decision No. 169 (1977).
We note, however, that social security numbers that were obtained or maintained by a governmental body pursuant to any provision of law, enacted on or after October 1, 1990, are confidential pursuant to section 405(c)(2)(C)(viii) of title 42 of the United States Code in conjunction with section 552.101 and must be withheld. We are aware of no such law applicable here.
You also cite, in conjunction with section 552.101, the provisions of section 772.318 of the Health and Safety Code, which make caller telephone numbers and addresses furnished by computerized 9-1-1 service suppliers or business service users confidential. See Open Records Decision No. 649 (1996). To the extent that the 9-1-1 call information at issue here was furnished by a service supplier or business service user under Health and Safety Code chapter 772, subchapter D, of which section 772.318 is a part, we agree that originating telephone numbers and addresses are confidential and must be withheld.(1)
The submitted information also contains driver's license and license plate numbers which are subject to section 552.130 of the Government Code. Section 552.130 provides in relevant part as follows:
(a) Information is excepted from [required public disclosure] if the information relates to:
(1) a motor vehicle operator's or driver's license or permit issued by an agency of this state; [or]
(2) a motor vehicle title or registration issued by an agency of this state[.]
The driver's license and license plate numbers in the submitted information must be withheld under section 552.130. Except as noted above, you must release the requested information.
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).
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.
Ref: ID# 132590
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Pat Weisenbereger
1. Open Records Decision No. 649 (1996) notes that of subchapters B, C, D, and E of chapter 772, "Local Administration of Emergency Communications," subchapters B,C, and D contain identical confidentiality provisions. See Health and Safety Code §§ 772.118, 772.218, and 772.318. Subchapter E, however -- "Emergency Communication Service: Counties with Population over 1.5 Million" -- contains no such confidentiality provision.
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