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September 14, 2000

Mr. Scott A. Durfee
General Counsel
Office of the District Attorney
Harris County
Criminal Justice Center
1201 Franklin, Suite 600
Houston, Texas 77002

OR2000-3544

Dear Mr. Durfee:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 139139.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office (the "office ") received a request for any and all information pertaining to a specified cause number including the accused's information sheet, handwritten notes made during interviews with the complainant or the defendant, and records of plea offers or meetings with the defendant's attorney. You explain that the referenced cause number was prosecuted by your office and that the defendant was imprisoned. You claim that the submitted information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101 and 552.108 of the Government Code.(1) We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

You assert that the documents in Appendix C are excepted from disclosure under section 552.108(a)(3) and 552.108(b)(3). Section 552.108(b)(3) provides the following:

(b) An internal record or notation of a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that is maintained for internal use in matters relating to law enforcement or prosecution is excepted from the requirements of section 552.021 if:

. . .

(3) the internal record or notation:

(A) is prepared by an attorney representing the state in anticipation of or in the course of preparing for criminal litigation; or

(B) reflects the mental impressions or legal reasoning of an attorney representing the state.

Assuming that the submitted information was prepared by a prosecutor, you may withhold the documents in Appendix C under section 552.108(b)(3).

You also claim that criminal history record information ("CHRI") obtained from the Department of Public Safety ("DPS") is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101. Section 552.101 of the Government Code protects "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." This section encompasses information protected by statute. Section 411.083 of the Government Code deems confidential CHRI that the Department of Public Safety ("DPS") maintains, except that the DPS may disseminate this information as provided in chapter 411, subchapter F of the Government Code. See Gov't Code 411.083.

Sections 411.083(b)(1) and 411.089(a) authorize a criminal justice agency to obtain CHRI; however, a criminal justice agency may not release CHRI except to another criminal justice agency for a criminal justice purpose. Id. 411.089(b)(1). Other entities specified in chapter 411 of the Government Code are entitled to obtain CHRI from DPS or another criminal justice agency; however, those entities may not release CHRI except as provided by chapter 411. See generally id. 411.090 - .127. Thus, any CHRI obtained from DPS or any other criminal justice agency must be withheld under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with Government Code chapter 411, subchapter F. Thus, you must withhold the CHRI.

In conclusion, we find that you may withhold Appendix C under section 552.108 if the information was prepared by a prosecutor and Appendix D under section 552.101.

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).

Please remember that under the Act the release of information triggers certain procedures for costs and charges to the requestor. If records are released in compliance with this ruling, be sure that all charges for the information are at or below the legal amounts. Questions or complaints about over-charging must be directed to the General Services Commission at 512/475-2497.

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,

Jennifer Bialek
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JHB/er

Ref: ID# 139139

Encl: Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Lori Norris
40490 SW Laurelwood
Gaston, Oregon 97119
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. Because you state that you wish to withhold certain documents responsive to the request, we assume that you have released to the requestor other responsive information. See Gov't Code 552.301 (governmental body must request an attorney general decision for information that it wishes to withhold).
 

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