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December 2, 2002

Ms. Susan Camp-Lee
Sheets & Crossfield, P.C.
309 East Main Street
Round Rock, Texas 78664-5246

OR2002-6842

Dear Ms. Camp-Lee:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 172926.

The Round Rock Police Department (the "department"), which you represent, received a request for copies of information pertaining to a specified traffic accident. You state that you have provided the requestor with some responsive information. You claim, however, that portions of the remaining requested information are excepted from disclosure pursuant to section 552.130 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and have reviewed the submitted information.

We note that the submitted information includes a "Texas Peace Officer's Accident Report," which is subject to chapter 550 of the Transportation Code. Section 550.065(b) provides that, except as provided by subsection (c), accident reports are privileged and confidential. See Transp. Code 550.065(b). Section 550.065(c)(4) provides for the release of accident reports to a person who provides two of the following three pieces of information: (1) date of the accident; (2) name of any person involved in the accident; and (3) specific location of the accident. See Transp. Code 550.065(c)(4). Under this provision, the Department of Public Safety (the "DPS") or another governmental entity is required to release a copy of an accident report to a person who provides the agency with two or more pieces of information specified by the statute. See id. In this case, we find that the requestor has provided the department with all three of the pieces of information required under section 550.065(c)(4). Accordingly, we conclude that the department must release the accident report that we have marked to the requestor in its entirety pursuant to section 550.065(c)(4) of the Transportation Code.

We also note that a portion of the information at issue is excepted from disclosure pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with chapter 411 of the Government Code.(1) Criminal history record information ("CHRI") generated by the National Crime Information Center ("NCIC") or by the Texas Crime Information Center ("TCIC") is confidential. Federal regulations prohibit the release of CHRI maintained in state and local CHRI systems to the general public. See 28 C.F.R. 20.21(c)(1) ("Use of criminal history record information disseminated to noncriminal justice agencies shall be limited to the purpose for which it was given."), (2) ("No agency or individual shall confirm the existence or nonexistence of criminal history record information to any person or agency that would not be eligible to receive the information itself."). Section 411.083 provides that any CHRI maintained by the DPS is confidential. See Gov't Code 411.083(a). Similarly, CHRI obtained from the DPS pursuant to statute is also confidential and may only be disclosed in very limited instances. See id. 411.084; see also id. 411.087 (restrictions on disclosure of CHRI obtained from DPS also apply to CHRI obtained from other criminal justice agencies). Accordingly, we conclude that the department must withhold the information that we have marked pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with chapter 411 of the Government Code. See id.; see also Gov't Code 411.106(b), .082(2) (defining criminal history record information).

You claim that portions of the information at issue are excepted from disclosure pursuant to section 552.130 of the Government Code. Section 552.130 excepts information from disclosure that relates to a motor vehicle operator's or driver's license or permit issued by an agency of this state or a motor vehicle title or registration issued by an agency of this state. See Gov't Code 552.130. Accordingly, we conclude that the department must withhold the information that we have marked pursuant to section 552.130 of the Government Code.

In summary, the department must withhold the information that we have marked pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with chapter 411 of the Government Code. The department must also withhold the information that we have marked pursuant to section 552.130 of the Government Code. The department must release the remaining submitted information 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 Hadassah Schloss at the Texas Building and Procurement 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. We note that a third party may challenge this ruling by filing suit seeking to withhold information from a requestor. Gov't Code 552.325. 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,

Ronald J. Bounds
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

RJB/lmt

Ref: ID# 172926

Enc. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Wayne Kirven
Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company
12401 Research Blvd, Bldg 1, Suite 150
Austin, Texas 78759
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from disclosure information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision. See Gov't Code 552.101. Section 552.101 encompasses information that is protected from disclosure by other statutes.
 

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