Click for home page Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
John Cornyn
image
 

November 2, 2000

Lieutenant Arturo Valdez
Central Record Division
City of McAllen Police Department
1501 Pecan Boulevard
McAllen, Texas 78501

OR2000-4263

Dear Lieutenant Valdez:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 140774.

The McAllen Police Department (the "department") received a written request for three case files pertaining to a homicide and aggravated robbery. You indicate that the department has released all "basic information" in accordance with section 552.108(c) of the Government Code and 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). You contend, however, that the remaining information in the requested police files is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108(a)(2) of the Government Code.

Section 552.108(a)(2) 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 . . . it is information that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime only in relation to an investigation that did not result in conviction or deferred adjudication[.]" (Emphasis added.) Section 552.108(a)(2) protects law-enforcement records that pertain to criminal investigations and prosecutions that have concluded in a result other than a criminal conviction or deferred adjudication. In this instance, you state that the criminal cases at issue were "no billed" by the grand jury. Based on your representation to us, this office concludes that the department may withhold the information at issue pursuant to section 552.108(a)(2), with the following exception.

We note that some of the submitted documents have been filed with the court. Copies of records that have been filed with a court are not excepted from required public disclosure when held by a governmental official who does not hold those copies as an agent of the court. See Gov't Code 552.022(a)(17); cf. Open Records Decision No. 513 (1988) (evidentiary information held by district attorney not judicial record merely because information submitted to grand jury); Star-Telegram v. Walker, 834 S.W.2d 54 (Tex. 1992) (no privacy interest in information contained in public court records). Accordingly, to the extent that the requested documents are contained in court records, that information must be released to the requestor.

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,

Nathan E. Bowden
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

NEB/RWP/seg

Ref: ID# 140774

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Felipe A. Saenz
Royston, Rayzor, Vickery & Williams, L.L.P.
55 Cove Circle
Brownsville, Texas 78523
(w/o enclosures)


 

POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US
An Equal Employment Opportunity Employer


Home | ORLs