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June 7, 2000

Mr. John Steiner
Division Chief
City of Austin Law Department
P.O. Box 1546
Austin, Texas 78767-1546

OR2000-2225

Dear Mr. Steiner:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 136023.

The Austin Police Department (the "department") received a written request for a particular offense report pertaining to the death of a suspect while in police custody. You contend that the requested information is excepted from disclosure pursuant to sections 552.103 and 552.108 of the Government Code.

Section 552.108(a)(1) of the Government Code excepts from required public disclosure "[i]nformation held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime . . . if . . . release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime." Based on your representation that the requested offense report directly relates to pending criminal investigation, we conclude that you have met your burden of demonstrating the applicability of section 552.108(a)(1). The department therefore may withhold the requested offense report at this time, with the following exception.

Section 552.108 does not except from required public disclosure "basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime." Gov't Code 552.108(c). Because you have raised no other applicable exception to disclosure, the department must release these types of information in accordance with Houston Chronicle Publishing Company 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).(1)

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.

Sincerely,

Michael Jay Burns
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

MJB/RWP/ljp

Ref: ID# 136023

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Jason Spencer
Austin American-Statesman
305 South Congress
Austin, Texas 78704-0670
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. Because we resolve your request under section 552.108(a)(1), we need not address the applicability of section 552.103 of the Government Code, except to note that section 552.103 does not except from public disclosure basic "front page" information. See Open Records Decision No. 597 (1991).
 

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