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3. 911 tapes

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  • Alabama

    An audio recording of a 911 telephone call may not be released to the public absent a court order finding that the right of the public to the release of the recording outweighs the privacy interests of the individual who made the 911 call or any person involved in the facts or circumstances relating to the 911 call. Ala. Code § 11-98-12.

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  • Alaska

    Although compliance by law enforcement agencies is uneven, 911 tapes should be presumptively disclosable under the Public Records Act. The Legislature has considered a bill that would exempt 911 tapes from coverage of the Public Records Act, but failed to pass it.

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  • Arizona

    Tapes of 911 calls are available to the public, “unless the government puts forward an interest that justifies withholding access” to the tapes.  See A.H. Belo Corp. v. Mesa Police Dep’t, 202 Ariz. 184, 187, 42 P.3d 615, 618 (Ct. App. 2002) (finding that the privacy of the injured child and his family were sufficient countervailing interests to preclude release of a 911 tape).  When transcripts of the calls are available, the public interest in the tapes is decreased because the same information is available by alternate means.  Id. at 188, 42 P.3d at 619 (noting that the television station did not argue that “the tape advances the purpose of the Public Records Act in any way that the transcript does not satisfy”).

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  • Arkansas

    Recordings made of 911 calls are subject to disclosure under the FOIA. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 94-100. Subscriber information, including names, telephone numbers, and addresses, of 911 callers that is provided by service providers to the 911 system is confidential and is not subject to the FOIA. Ark. Code Ann. § 12-10-317(a)(2).

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  • California

    911 tapes are not expressly exempt under the CPRA.  Arguably, when calls for assistance involve an allegation of criminal wrongdoing, they may fall under the investigatory records exemption of Section 6254(f).  Under such circumstances, the detailed information culled from the tape and required to be disclosed under the statute would have to be disclosed, but not the tape itself. Cal. Gov’t Code § 6254(f)(1), (2) and (3).  However, not all calls to a 911 call center or local police department are or should be protected from disclosure under this provision. Section 6254(f) exempts only “[r]ecords of complaints to, or investigations conducted by, or records of intelligence information or security procedures of” various law enforcement agencies, as well as certain “investigatory . . . files” maintained by those agencies.  Cal. Gov’t Code § 6254(f).  In Haynie v. Superior Court, 26 Cal. 4th 1061, 1071, 112 Cal. Rptr. 2d 80, 31 P.3d 760 (2001), the California Supreme Court made clear that this exemption must not be interpreted to “shield everything law enforcement officers do from disclosure.”  The court emphasized that “officers make inquiries of citizens for purposes . . . that are unrelated to either civil or criminal investigations.”  Id.  “The records of investigation exempted under section 6254(f) encompass only those investigations undertaken for the purpose of determining whether a violation of law may occur or has occurred.”  Id. (emphasis added).  When a 911 call is made for medical assistance, for example, Section 6254(f) arguably is not implicated.

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  • Connecticut

    There are no specific provisions or reported authorities regarding 911 tapes.  See also Conn. Gen. Stat. § 1-210(b)(3) (law enforcement exemption); Records Outline at II.A.2.c.

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  • Delaware

    While the statute does not address these records, the attorney general found that audio recordings of 911 calls made from the residence of Vice President Biden were exempt from disclosure, as the privacy interests under the U.S. Constitution and Delaware law outweighed whatever interest the public might have in disclosure of the recordings. Del. Op. Att’y Gen., No. 13-ib06 (Nov. 20, 2013).

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  • District of Columbia

    Not specifically addressed.

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  • Florida

    To the extent that records of 911 tapes are not otherwise statutorily exempt from the mandates of the Public Records Law (Chapter 119) (i.e., confessions, etc.), they are subject to public inspection.

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  • Georgia

    The Act permits access to public records of an emergency "911" system, except information that would reveal the name, address, or telephone number of a person placing a call to a public safety answering point if redaction of such information is necessary to protect the identity of a confidential source, to prevent disclosure of information that would endanger the life or safety of any persons, or to prevent disclosure of the existence of a confidential investigation. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(a)(26).

    The Act also places restrictions on access to audio recordings of 911 calls that contain “the speech in distress or cries in extremis of a caller who died during the call or the speech or cries of a person who was a minor at the time of the call,” § 50-18-72(a)(26.1), and to “audio and video recordings from devices used by law enforcement officers in a place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy when there is no pending investigation,” § 50-18-72(a)(26.2).

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  • Hawaii

    A 911 tape pertaining to the stabbing death of an infant, for which the infant’s mother was subsequently arrested and charged in Family Court with second degree murder, was not subject to disclosure because an agency may withhold government records that “pursuant to State or federal law including an order of any State or federal court, are protected from disclosure[.]” Request For Emergency 911 Tape, OIP Op. Ltr. No. 05-17 (Nov. 17, 2005) (quoting Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-13(4)). Under state law, police department records relating to proceedings filed in the Family Court are confidential unless otherwise ordered by the court. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 571-84(e).

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  • Idaho

    There is no express exemption that applies to 911 tapes, thus they are presumed to be open.

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  • Indiana

    There is no statutory and little case law addressing this issue. See City of Elkhart v. Agenda: Open Gov’t, Inc., 683 N.E.2d 622, 626 (Ind. Ct. App. 1997) (“The City begins with the premise, and we do not disagree, that the E–911 system is a record keeping or security system.”). A 2017 Public Access Counselor opinion addressed the question of whether 911 recordings are investigatory records under Indiana Code Section 5-14-3-4(b)(1). Opinion of the Public Access Counselor, Hasnie v. Carroll Cnty. E-911, 17-FC-167. The Counselor opined that Carroll E-911 was not a “law enforcement agency” under the Access to Public Records Act, but even if it were, the investigatory records exception would not apply because the information sought was not “compiled in the investigation of a crime.” Id. The Counselor cited prior opinions that many 911 calls do not involved crime investigation and that 911 tapes are presumed to be records subject to public disclosure. Id. (citing Opinion of the Public Access Counselor 08-FC-64).

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  • Iowa

    Generally, 911 tapes are public record and may be obtained by anyone. Can the Public Obtain Copies of “9-1-1-“ Audio Tapes?, Iowa Attorney General (Feb. 1, 2006), https://www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov/about-us/sunshine-advisories/can-the-public-obtain-copies-of-9-1-1-audio-tapes/; Iowa Code § 22.1(3) (2018). However, if the 911 call includes confidential information, it may be treated as part of a law enforcement officer’s investigative report. Id. In this case, the “date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances” must still be released unless that information would “plainly and seriously jeopardize an investigation or pose a clear and present danger” to an individual’s safety. Id.

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  • Kansas

    Not specifically addressed, but presumably open unless part of a criminal investigation. K.S.A. 45-221(a)(10).

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  • Kentucky

    In Bowling v. Brandenburg, 37 S.W.3d 785 (Ky. Ct. App. 2000), the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision that a recorded 911 call was exempt from disclosure under the Open Records Act because of the personal privacy exception in Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.878(1)(a). However, in a later unpublished case, the Court of Appeals found that a 911 call was not exempt because, unlike Bowling, “the 911 caller was neither an alleged victim of domestic violence nor subject to future threats from the alleged domestic violence perpetrator.” Marshall County v. Paxton Media Group, No. 2008-CA-001100MR, 2009 Ky. App. Unpub. LEXIS 399 (Ky. Ct. App. Jan. 23, 2009). See also 14-ORD-139 (finding 911 recording exempt under law enforcement records exemption, Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.878(1)(h), where agency articulated harm that would result specifically from pretrial disclosure of the recording).

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  • Louisiana

    One Court has held that 911 tapes “qualify as a confidential communication” and are exempt from disclosure.”  Hill v. E. Baton Rouge Par. Dep't of Emergency Med. Servs., 925 So.2d 17, 21 (La.App. 1st Cir. 2005).

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  • Maine

    Redacted transcripts of 911 calls are available to the public. The transcript will not contain names, addresses or telephone numbers of persons placing the call or receiving assistance. The general location where the assistance was sent is public. 25 M.R.S.A. § 2929; see also MaineToday Media, Inc. v. State of Maine, 2013 ME 100, 82 A.3d 104 (Me. 2013).  Except on a showing of good cause, audio tapes of 911 calls are confidential.

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  • Maryland

    Tape recordings of 911 Emergency Telephone System calls are public records, except for those portions exempted from disclosure. 71 Op. Att'y Gen. 288 (1986). For example, medical information such as the symptoms of an ill or injured individual recorded during a 911 call may not be released. PIA Manual, at 3-17 (citing to 90 Opinions of the Attorney General 45 (2005).

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  • Michigan

    The Court of Appeals held that the City acted whimsically in denying the plaintiff immediate access to the 911 tapes.  Meredith Corporation v. City of Flint, 256 Mich. App. 703 671 N.W. 2d 101 (2003).

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  • Minnesota

    Written transcription of 911 calls are public, with some caveats. Audio recordings may be used for certain public safety and training purposes. Minn. Stat. § 13.82, subd. 4.

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  • Mississippi

    Miss. Code Sec. 19-5-319(2) restricts the release of 911 calls:

    ·         “All emergency telephone calls and telephone call transmissions received pursuant to Section 19-5-301 et seq., and all recordings of the emergency telephone calls, shall remain confidential and shall be used only for the purposes as may be needed for law enforcement, fire, medical rescue or other emergency services. These recordings shall not be released to any other parties without court order or subpoena from a court of competent jurisdiction.”

    However, section (3) of the same provision provides for the release of some information about 911 calls:

    • "[Public Safety Answering Point] and emergency response entities shall maintain and, upon request, release a record of the date of call, time of call, the time the emergency response entity was notified, and the identity of the emergency response entity. The emergency response entity shall maintain and, upon request, release a record of the date and time the call was received by the emergency response entity and the time the emergency response entity arrived on the scene. Requests for release of records must be made in writing and must specify the information desired. Requestors shall pay the cost of providing the information requested in accordance with the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983, Section 25-61-1 et seq. The identity of any caller or person or persons who are the subject of any call, or the address, phone number or other identifying information about any such person, shall not be released except as provided in subsection (2) of this section."

     

    Miss. Code. Ann. § 19-5-319 (West)

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  • Montana

    911 tapes are initial offense reports and public criminal justice information.

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  • Nebraska

    911 tapes may be withheld to the extent that they constitute investigatory records.

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  • Nevada

    Presumably open. NRS 179.070(1)

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  • New Hampshire

    Neither the Statute nor case law addresses this issue.

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  • New Jersey

    911 tapes fall within the definition of a "government record" under OPRA. Because 911 tapes are required by law to be made and kept, they do not qualify as a criminal investigatory record under OPRA. 911 tapes do not become cloaked with confidentiality simply because they become part of a criminal investigation. Serrano v. South Brunswick, 358 N.J. Super. 352 (App. Div. 2003). They are subject to the analysis set forth in N.J.S.A. 47:1A-3(a).

    In Asbury Park Press v. Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, 374 N.J. Super. 312 (Law Div 2004), the court concluded that the pain family members of the victim who called 911 would suffer upon the release of the call required that it be confidential. Even a redacted version of a transcript, deleting the victim's side of the conversation, would have impermissibly violated the expectation of privacy, because much of what the dispatcher said simply repeated, to obtain confirmation, what the victim had previously said.

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  • New Mexico

    911 tapes and original records of entry that are maintained by criminal justice agencies and compiled chronologically are available for public inspection.  NMSA 1978 § 29-10-7(A)(2); see New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, Inspection of Public Records Act Compliance Guide, 12, (8th ed. 2015).

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  • New York

    The Committee on Open Government has expressed the opinion that 911 tapes can be viewed as records compiled in the ordinary course of business and as such, should generally be subject to disclosure. Comm. Open Gov’t, FOIL-AO-3734 (1985); FOIL-AO-3540 (1984). See New York Times Co. v. City of New York Fire Dep’t, 4 N.Y.3d 477, 796 N.Y.S.2d 302 (2005) (emergency 911 calls made in connection with terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, are subject to disclosure under FOIL to the extent that the words recorded are those of public employees and of eight deceased individuals whose survivors sought disclosure, but must be redacted to delete the words of other callers to 911).

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  • North Carolina

    Recordings of 911 calls are public. G.S. § 132-1.4(c)(4)

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  • North Dakota

    Please see the discussion of 911 records, outlined in Section II(A)(2) above.

    An audio recording of a request for emergency services or of a report of an emergency is an exempt record; however, upon request, a person may listen to the audio recording, but may not copy or record the audio. N.D.C.C. § 57-40.6-07. A person may also request a written transcript of the audio recording, which must be provided to the person within a reasonable time. N.D.C.C. § 57-40.6-07.

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  • Ohio

    The Ohio Supreme Court has held that cities and counties must provide copies of 911 calls in their custody. State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty., 75 Ohio St.3d 374, 662 N.E.2d 334 (1996). See also State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Sage, 142 Ohio St. 3d 392, 397, 31 N.E.3d 616, 622, 2015-Ohio-974, ¶ 18. (911 recordings are not subject to the work product exemption because dispatcher was not a law-enforcement official, was not questioning the caller in anticipation of future litigation.).

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  • Oklahoma

    911 tapes are public records under the Act. 51 O.S. § 24A.8.A.4.

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  • Oregon

    There is no statutory or case law specifically addressing this issue.

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  • Pennsylvania

    65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.708(b)(18) exempts 911 tapes unless public interest outweighs any interest against disclosure.  Time response logs, destination addresses and cross-street information are subject to disclosure.  See Pa. State Police v. Muller, 124 A.3d 761, 766 (Pa. Cmmw. 2015).

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  • Rhode Island

    Tapes containing records of 911 telephone calls are confidential and to be used only in handling emergency calls and for public safety purposes.  They may not be released to anyone other than emergency and public safety personnel without written consent of the person whose voice is recorded or upon order of the court.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 39-21.1-4(2).  See also Opinion of Attorney General PR 04-05 (Mar. 19, 2004), 2004 WL 5328452.

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  • South Carolina

    Public unless the release would harm the agency.  S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-40(a)(3); Evening Post Publishing Co. v. City of N. Charleston, 611 S.E.2d 496 (S.C. 2005). Audio of the final statements of a dying victim in a call to 911 emergency services may be exempted and withheld from disclosure unless the privacy interest is waived by the deceased's next of kin. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-40(a)(2).

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  • South Dakota

    Open conditionally. Must be determined that “public interest in disclosure outweighs interest in nondisclosure.” SDCL §1-27-1.5 (5).

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  • Tennessee

    Generally open, however, frequent legislative attempts are made to close these records.

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  • Texas

    Tape recordings of calls made to the 911 number constitute public information. Tex. Att'y Gen. ORD-519 (1989). Such records are subject to public disclosure even if they are held by a "911 network district" established under the Emergency Communication District Act. Tex. Health & Safety Code. §§ 772.201-772.229 (formerly Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat. Ann. art. 1432d); Tex. Att'y Gen. ORD-519 (1989); see also Tex. Att'y Gen. ORD-633 (1995) (although this opinion addresses the withholding of a police narrative report, it notes that the City of Waco was willing to release the 911 audiotape copy of the incident made the subject of the report). A police department's "radio logs" or "radio cards" that describe the police department's records of all calls answered by the police, including a brief description of the nature or reason for the call and its location, generally are public, although exceptions might arise exempting the names of complainants. Tex. Att'y Gen. ORD-394 (1983).

    Additionally, the 911 Emergency Number Act makes confidential the originating telephone numbers and addresses of 911 callers that are furnished by a service supplier. Tex. Health & Safety Code. § 772.218(c); see also Tex. Atty. Gen. Op. OR 11538 (2011) (911 calls made on specified dates pertaining to a specified address may be withheld because although case is inactive, Houston Police Department indicated case may be reactivated once additional leads are developed). Records prepared by emergency medical services personnel can be public, unless the information relates to highly intimate or embarrassing facts, such as information concerning a drug overdose, acute alcohol intoxication, obstetrical or gynecological illness, and severe emotional or mental distress; such exempt information is confidential under common law and constitutional privacy grounds. Tex. Att'y Gen. ORD-487 (1988). Emergency medical service records also may be excepted from public disclosure under the Medical Practice Act, Tex. Occ. Code. § 159.002, if the records were created under the delegated authority of a physician unless the documents are requested  by a person who bears a written consent of the patient or other person authorized to act on the patient's behalf for release of confidential information. Tex. Att'y Gen. Nos. ORD-598 (1991), ORD-578 (1990).

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  • Utah

    In Fox Television Stations v. Clary, No. 940700284 (Utah 2d Dist. Dec. 5, 1995), the court also held that two tape recordings of 911 telephone calls placed by a woman as she was being shot by her estranged husband were public records and ordered the Sheriff’s Department to release complete, unredacted copies of the 911 tapes. The court concluded that the interests favoring restriction of access, if any, did not clearly outweigh the interests favoring access. Since no other statutory or constitutional exemptions applied, the 911 tapes were presumed public.

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  • Vermont

    Vermont directly prohibits disclosure of “[i]nformation relating to customer name, address, and any other specific customer information collected, organized, acquired, or held by” the entity operating a public safety answering point or administering the Enhanced 911 database.  30 V.S.A. § 7055(b). This type of information in the hands of an emergency service provider is not public information and is exempt from disclosure under 1 V.S.A. chapter 5, subchapter 3.” 30 V.S.A. § 7059(c).

    Further, “[a]ll persons receiving confidential information . . .  shall use it solely for the purposes of providing emergency 911 services, and shall not disclose such confidential information for any other purpose.” 30 V.S.A. § 7055(b).

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  • Virginia

    911 records are noncriminal records presumed open pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3706.E., but personal, medical or financial information from disclosure may be withheld if the safety or privacy of any person would be jeopardized by it release. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3706.D.

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  • Washington

    911 tapes are available to the extent not covered by the investigative records exemption. See RCW 42.56. 240(1).

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  • West Virginia

    (This section is blank. See the point above.)

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  • Wisconsin

    There is no authority with respect to 911 tapes per se. However, radio logs are generally subject to inspection. 67 Wis. Op. Att'y Gen. 12 (Jan. 25, 1978). Requests seeking copies of 911 tapes, like all other requests, must be reasonably limited and defined. See Schopper v. Gehring, 210 Wis. 2d 208, 213, 565 N.W.2d 187, 189–90 (Ct. App. 1997) ("We agree that to require a custodian of a record to engage in the copying 180 hours of tape and the creation of a log to identify the time and the order in which the transmissions were received represent a burden far beyond that which may reasonably be required of a custodian of a public record. '[A] request for a record without a reasonable limitation as to subject matter or length of time represented by the record does not constitute a sufficient request.'").

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  • Wyoming

    Exempt from disclosure.  Wyo. Stat. 16-4-203(d)(x).

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