4. Investigatory records
Law enforcement “investigative reports and related investigatory material” are not public records. Ala. Code § 12-21-3.1(b); Something Extra Publ’g, Inc. v. Mack, 2021 Ala. LEXIS 103 (Ala. 2021). There is authority for closure of the following records pertaining to active investigations:
(1) Records regarding pending criminal investigations. Stone v. Consol. Publ’g Co., 404 So. 2d 678, 681 (Ala. 1981) (establishing a precatory, not mandatory, exclusion). See also Mack, supra (extending statutory investigative privilege to a closed case).
(2) Information regarding witness identification and reports from such witnesses, at the discretion of the Police Department. Birmingham News Co. v. Deutcsh, CV 85-504-132 JDC (Cir. Ct. Jefferson Cnty., Ala., Equity Div., Aug. 19, 1986) (consent order).
(3) Search warrants, arrest warrants, supporting affidavits and depositions, until the search warrant or arrest warrant is executed and returned. 197 Op. Att’y Gen. Ala. 13 (Oct. 10, 1984).
(4) Prison incident reports with information regarding a pending criminal investigation. Allen v. Barksdale, 32 So. 3d 1264 (Ala. 2009).
(5) Autopsy reports that relate to a pending investigation. Op. Att'y Gen. Ala. No. 2007-015, 2006 Ala. AG LEXIS 142 (Dec. 4, 2006).
(6) National Fire Incident Reporting Systems forms that relate to a pending investigation. Op. Att'y Gen. Ala. No. 2006-134, 2006 Ala. AG LEXIS 97 (Aug. 17, 2006).
There is authority for public access to the following records of active investigations:
(1) Complaint reports, including the front side of incident/offense reports subject to the right of the sheriff to withhold or redact certain information on a case-by-case basis depending on the nature of the case, the status of the investigation, whether the victim would be subject to threats or intimidation, or when public disclosure would hinder the investigation. Wash. Cnty. Publ’ns v. Wheat, No. CV-99-94 (Cir. Ct. Washington Cnty., Ala., May 1, 2000); Op. Att’y Gen. Ala. No. 2000-197, 2000 Ala. AG LEXIS 112 (July 19, 2000); Op. Att’y Gen. Ala. No. 2000-004, 1999 Ala. AG LEXIS 89 (Oct. 7, 1999); see also Birmingham News Co. v. Watkins, No. 38389 (Cir. Ct. Jefferson Cnty., Ala., Oct. 30, 1974) (based on First Amendment, not Alabama’s Public Records Law, with discretion for police department to withhold portions of reports or entire reports if and as necessary to prevent “actual interference” with law enforcement).
(2) Search and arrest warrants, with supporting affidavits and depositions, after a search warrant or arrest warrant is executed and returned. 197 Op. Att’y Gen. Ala. 13 (Oct. 10, 1984); see also Op. Att'y Gen. Ala. No. 2008-030, 2007 Ala. AG LEXIS 97 (Dec. 28, 2007).
Law enforcement records that could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings may be withheld from disclosure under the Public Records Act. AS 40.25.120(6)(A). In Basey v. State, Department of Public Safety, the Alaska Supreme Court held that the state was not justified in withholding law enforcement documents pursuant to AS.40.25.120(a)(6) without a showing that disclosure of the requested records could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings. 408 P.3d at 1180. Simply asserting that there was a pending criminal case was insufficient reason to withhold documents relating to a joint state and federal investigation of the requester. Since law enforcement records are exempt from disclosure “only to the extent” that they could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, records relating to closed investigations would presumably be open unless another exemption applies. AS 40.25.120(6)(A). Compare, Basey at 1180.
In Cox Arizona Publications Inc. v. Collins, 175 Ariz. 11, 14, 852 P.2d 1194, 1998 (1993), the Arizona Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ ruling that the public is not entitled to examine police reports in “an active ongoing criminal prosecution.” The Arizona Supreme Court held that such a “blanket rule . . . contravenes the strong policy favoring open disclosure and access.” Thus, public officials bear the “burden of showing the probability that specific, material harm will result from disclosure” before it may withhold police records. Mitchell v. Superior Court, 142 Ariz. 332, 335, 690 P.2d 51, 54 (1984).
However, A.R.S. § 13-2813 prohibits disclosing “an indictment, information or complaint . . . before the accused person is in custody or has been accused.”
“[R]eports of ongoing police investigations are not generally exempt from [Arizona’s] public records law,” so they must be disclosed unless the law enforcement agency can “specifically demonstrate how production of the documents would violate rights of privacy or confidentiality, or would be detrimental to the best interests of the state.” Cox Ariz. Publ’ns, 175 Ariz. at 14, 852 P.2d at 1198 (internal quotation marks omitted).
There is an exemption for “undisclosed investigations by law enforcement agencies of suspected criminal activity.” Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(b)(6). A record must be investigative in nature to fall within the exemption. Arrest reports, jail logs, incident reports, and shift sheets do not qualify, Hengel v. City of Pine Bluff, 307 Ark. 457, 821 S.W.2d 761 (1991), nor do arrest disposition reports maintained by jails. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 92-207. Similarly, accident reports, traffic citations, dispatch logs, and records reflecting results of blood alcohol tests in DWI cases are not exempt. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. Nos. 96-070, 87-319, 87-115, 86-020. Prison-transport manifests also are not exempt under this exemption, because they are records “kept in the regular course of business.” Holladay v. Glass, 2017 Ark. App. 595, 534 S.W.3d 173 (2017). By contrast, the Hengel case indicates that information such as an officer’s speculation about a suspect’s guilt, his or her views as to the credibility of witnesses, and statements by informants fall within the exemption. See also Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 99-110 (exemption applies to opinions and impressions of investigating officer). The Supreme Court has suggested, without deciding, that records generated as a result of intelligence or surveillance activity unrelated to a specific crime fall within the exemption. Johninson v. Stodola, 316 Ark. 423, 872 S.W.2d 374 (1994) (police records of gang membership).
Furthermore, the exemption applies only to those agencies that “investigate suspected criminal activity under the state penal code and have enforcement powers.” Legislative Joint Auditing Committee v. Woosley, 291 Ark. 89, 722 S.W.2d 581 (1987) (holding exemption inapplicable to joint auditing committee of the legislature). See also Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. Nos. 87-135 (exemption includes coroners), 84-139 (exemption applies to Employment Security Division), 80-149 (exemption does not apply to Commission on Human Resources).
Only records of “ongoing criminal investigations” are exempt. Martin v. Musteen, 303 Ark. 656, 799 S.W.2d 540 (1990) (criminal investigation was ongoing for FOIA purposes even though charges had been filed against one of several suspects).
If an investigation has been concluded, the exemption no longer applies and the records are open. McCambridge v. City of Little Rock, 298 Ark. 219, 766 S.W.2d 909 (1989). That the records may contain names of confidential informants or other sensitive information is irrelevant. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 90-305. Records concerning investigation of a juvenile are open after the investigation is completed, provided that the juvenile has not been arrested. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 98-151.
An investigation is not ongoing when a police department has closed the case by “administrative action,” McCambridge v. City of Little Rock, supra, or when a prosecuting attorney decides not to pursue criminal charges. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 99-110. Otherwise, it is not clear when an investigation is considered at an end for FOIA purposes. Compare Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. Nos. 88-055 (investigation is closed when law enforcement agency turns case over to the prosecutor), 89-101 (investigation is open until trial is completed or statute of limitations has run), 89-311 (investigation is closed when case “proceeds to trial”), 90-305 (investigation ends when charges are filed). The Attorney General has opined that “there is no bright line rule,” and the point of closure may be marked by any of the defendant’s arrest, the completion of trial, the conclusion of appeal, or another event. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 2002-303. To the extent that this issue turns on the facts of a given case, it is a question for the trial court. Martin v. Musteen, supra. If records are requested that the police department contends are exempt because the investigation is closed, the Court should conduct an in camera review of the investigation file to determine whether the police department is taking any action in furtherance of the investigation. Dep’t of Ark. State Police v. Keech Law Firm, P.A., 2017 Ark. 143, 516 S.W.3d 265 (2017). When activity in the file is “sparse,” the Court can determine that the investigation is closed for the purposes of the FOIA exemption. Id.
The exemption applies to copies of records in police files when the originals have been forwarded to another law enforcement agency that is continuing the investigation. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. Nos. 98-127, 92-237.
Investigatory records themselves are exempt from disclosure under Section 7923.600 of the Government Code. Cal. Gov’t Code § 7923.600. The exemption for investigatory records under Section 7923.600 is discretionary. Nothing precludes an agency from disclosing more than it is required to under the law. Cal. Gov’t Code § 7922.505.
The exemption for investigatory records and files does not terminate when the investigation terminates. Williams v. Superior Court, 5 Cal. 4th 337, 362, 852 P.2d 377, 19 Cal. Rptr.2d 882 (1993). The exemption has been held to apply to letters prepared after the conclusion of an investigation but that were related exclusively to the investigation. Rackauckas v. Superior Court, 104 Cal. App. 4th 169, 179, 128 Cal. Rptr. 2d 234 (2002).
While investigatory records are exempt from disclosure, specified facts from investigatory or security records must be disclosed unless disclosure would endanger the successful completion of an investigation or endanger a person involved in the investigation. Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 7923,610, 7923.615, and 7923.620.
For arrests, the agency must disclose such facts as the name, occupation, and detailed physical description of every individual arrested by the agency, as well as the time and date of arrest, the time and date of booking, the location of the arrest, the factual circumstances surrounding the arrest, the amount of bail set, the time and manner of release or the location where the individual is currently being held, and all charges the individual is being held upon, including any outstanding warrants from other jurisdictions and parole or probation holds must be disclosed. Cal. Gov’t Code § 7923.610.
For complaints or requests for assistance, the agency must disclose such facts as the time and nature of the response, the time, date and location of occurrence, the time and date of the report, the name and age of the victim, the factual circumstances surrounding the crime or incident, and a general description of any injuries, property, or weapons involved. Notwithstanding these mandatory disclosure requirements, an agency, at the victim’s request, may withhold the name of a victim of certain specified sexual crimes as set forth in the statute. Cal. Gov’t Code § 7923.615.
Additionally, to obtain address information for individuals arrested by an agency or victims of crimes other than those expressly set forth in the statute, the requester must state under penalty of perjury that the information is sought for one of five specified purposes: scholarly, journalistic, political, governmental, or investigation purposes by a licensed private investigator. Cal. Gov’t Code § 7923.620. Moreover, the requester must declare under penalty of perjury that the information obtained shall not be used, directly or indirectly, to sell a product or service. Id.
The mandatory disclosure provision of Section 7923.610 relating to arrest information has been held to apply only to those records pertaining to contemporaneous police activity. Cty. of Los Angeles v. Superior Court (Kusar), 18 Cal. App. 4th 588, 598-99, 22 Cal. Rptr. 2d 409 (1993)(holding disclosure obligations did not apply to request for information about closed investigations going back 10 years); Kinney v. Superior Court, 77 Cal. App. 5th 168, 177-78, 181, 292 Cal. Rptr. 3d 392 (2022)(applying the Kusar court’s “contemporaneous” limitation to a request for the names of those arrested for DUIs during a one month period in 2020, which information at the time of the request was 11 to 12 months old, stating that “[a]fter 11 to 12 months, we do not see how releasing the arrestees’ name would serve the purpose of preventing clandestine police activity”).
The holding in Kusar has come into question at least as to the mandatory disclosure provisions related to complaints and calls for assistance under Section 7923.615. See Fredericks v. Superior Court, 233 Cal. App. 4th 209, 233-34, 182 Cal. Rptr. 3d 526(2015)(refusing to read any time limitation into the disclosure provisions of [Section 7923.615], reasoning, in part, that the statutory language relied on in Kusar to imply such a limitation was no longer present in the current text of the statute).
Colo Rev. Stat. § 24-72-304(1) provides that the custodian can exercise its discretion in determining whether disclosure of criminal justice records other than "records of official action" would be "contrary to the public interest."
The statute does not differentiate between active and closed investigations. Investigatory records are subject to public inspection unless, in the opinion of the records custodian, their disclosure would be "contrary to the public interest." See Pretash v. City of Leadville, 715 P.2d 1272 (Colo. App. 1985) (inspection of records of active investigations may be denied if disclosure would impair or impede the investigation).
While a custodian may deny access to records of the investigations conducted by "any sheriff, prosecuting attorney, or police department," Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-204(2)(a)(I), courts have interpreted "prosecuting attorney" narrowly so as to apply only to attorneys investigating "with an eye toward future criminal prosecution." Shook v. Pitkin Cty. Bd. of Cty. Comm’rs, 411 P.3d 158, 161-62 (Colo. App. 2015) (although county attorney investigated whether individual had violated land use code and, if so, how to bring her back into compliance, investigation exemption did not apply because there was no evidence that attorney investigated "for the purpose of a criminal prosecution").
In City of Hartford v. FOIC, 201 Conn. 421, 518 A.2d 49 (1986), the Supreme Court held that certain police department internal affairs records were not exempt from disclosure under Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-210(b)(2). See also Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-210(b)(3) (law enforcement exemption); Dep’t of Pub. Safety v. FOIC, 51 Conn. App. 100, 720 A.2d 268 (1998); Kirschner v. FOIC, No. CV 97-0567162, 1998 WL 27829 (Conn. Super. Jan. 15, 1998); Records Outline at II.A.2.c. FOIA exempts from disclosure any “information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action if prejudicial to such action.” Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-210(b)(3). There are no other specific provisions or reported authorities regarding rules for active investigations. See also Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-210(b)(3) (law enforcement exemption); Records Outline at II.A.2.c. There are no specific provisions or reported authorities regarding rules for closed investigations. See also Conn. Gen. Stat. § 1-210(b)(3) (law enforcement exemption); Records Outline at II.A.2.c.
Investigatory records are exempt if “compiled for civil or criminal law-enforcement purposes including pending investigative files, pretrial and presentence investigations and child custody and adoption files where there is no criminal complaint at issue.” 29 Del. C. § 10002(o)(3).
District of Columbia
Under D.C. Code § 2-534 (a)(3), "[i]nvestigatory records compiled for law-enforcement purposes" may be exempt from disclosure," only to the extent that production of such records" could interfere with enforcement proceedings, deprive a person of an impartial adjudication, invade personal privacy, disclose a confidential source, disclose investigative techniques, or endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel. See also Fraternal Order of Police, Metro. Labor Comm. v. District of Columbia, 82 A.3d 803, 815 (D.C. 2014) (holding that records concerning use of breathalyzer were exempt only if "(1) the documents requested . . . [were] compiled for law enforcement purposes, and (2) disclosure of those documents would interfere with enforcement proceedings").
The rules for active and closed investigations have not been specifically addressed.
The Legislature has exempted from public inspection certain criminal intelligence and investigative records and files. Fla. Stat. § 119.071(2) (2020). “Criminal intelligence information” is defined as “information with respect to an identifiable person or group of persons collected by a criminal justice agency in an effort to anticipate, prevent, or monitor possible criminal activity.” Fla. Stat. § 119.011(3)(a) (2020). “Criminal investigative information” is defined as “information with respect to an identifiable person or group of persons compiled by a criminal justice agency in the course of conducting a criminal investigation of a specific act or omission, including, but not limited to, information derived from laboratory tests, reports of investigators or informants, or any type of surveillance.” Fla. Stat. § 119.011(3)(b) (2020). Accordingly, records created before an investigation commences, and records that are not created by a criminal justice agency, generally are not considered criminal investigative information, even if the records later become part of the investigative file. See Tribune Co. v. Cannella, 438 So. 2d 516 (Fla. 2d DCA 1983), rev’d on other grounds, 458 So. 2d 1075 (Fla. 1984) (information filed before the investigative process begins cannot be criminal investigative information, nor can such information be criminal intelligence information which is information collected in an effort to anticipate criminal activity); State Attorney’s Office of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit v. Cable News Network, Inc., 251 So. 3d 205 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018) (surveillance video footage created by a school district before a criminal investigation began did not constitute “criminal investigative information” within the meaning of s. 119.011(3)(b) because it was not compiled by a criminal justice agency in the course of conducting a criminal investigation).
The exemption includes criminal intelligence or investigative information received by a Florida criminal justice agency from a non-Florida criminal justice agency on a confidential or similarly restricted basis. Fla. Stat. § 119.071(2)(b) (2020). The purpose of the intelligence/investigative information exemptions is to prevent premature disclosure of information when such disclosure could impede an ongoing investigation or allow a suspect to avoid apprehension or escape detection. See Tribune Co. v. Public Records, 493 So. 2d 480 (Fla. 2d DCA 1986); Tribune Co. v. Cannella, 438 So. 2d 516 (Fla. 2d DCA 1983), rev’d on other grounds, 458 So. 2d 1075 (Fla. 1984).
The police investigative/intelligence records exemption applies only when such records are “active.” Fla. Stat. § 119.071(2)(c) (2020). Intelligence information is considered active “as long as it is related to intelligence gathering conducted with a reasonable, good faith belief that it will lead to detection of ongoing or reasonably anticipated criminal activities.” Fla. Stat. § 119.011(3)(d)(1) (2020). Investigative information is considered active “as long as it is related to an ongoing investigation which is continuing with a reasonable, good faith anticipation of securing an arrest or prosecution in the foreseeable future.” Fla. Stat. § 119.011(3)(d)(2) (2020). See generally Christy v. Palm Beach Cnty. Sheriff’s Office, 698 So. 2d 1365 (thirteen years old arrest record which was not pertinent to pending prosecution was not exempt)ee also Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 96-05 (1996) (criminal investigation of police officer is not exempt from public records disclosure requirements unless the record is deemed “active”). Cf. Fla. Freedom Newspapers Inc. v. Dempsey, 478 So. 2d 1128 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985) (there is no fixed time limit for naming suspects or making arrests other than the applicable statute of limitations).
Criminal intelligence/investigative information is also considered to be “active” while such information is directly related to pending prosecutions or appeals. Fla. Stat. § 119.011(3)(d); see also Tal-Mason v. Satz, 614 So. 2d 1134 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993); News-Press Publ’g Co. Inc. v. Sapp, 464 So. 2d 1335 (Fla. 2d DCA 1985); Wells v. Sarasota Herald Tribune Co., 546 So. 2d 1105 (Fla. 2d DCA 1989); Tribune Co. v. Public Records, 493 So. 2d 480 (Fla. 2d DCA 1986) (actions for post-conviction relief after a conviction has been affirmed on direct appeal are not pending appeals for purposes of section 119.011(3)(d)(2)); cf. Satz v. Gore Newspaper Co., 395 So. 2d 1274 (Fla. 4th DCA 1981) (a state attorney’s files on a civil matter which had been concluded contained criminal investigative information where testimony showed such information was and could be used to prevent and monitor possible criminal activity). Once the conviction and sentence become final, the exemption no longer applies. State v. Kokal, 562 So. 2d 324 (Fla. 1990); City of Avon Park v. Fla., 117 So. 3d 470 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013) (report of investigator for state attorneys’ office, which contained mental impressions, was no longer exempt when investigation and criminal proceedings concluded because no charges were filed against parties in the report); McDougall v. Culver, 3 So. 3d 391 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009) (the Sheriff’s Office’s internal affairs investigation procedures did not violate the Sunshine Law by failing to make memoranda relating to the investigations public until after the investigations were concluded). However, although an alleged incident of domestic violence is exempt from disclosure because it is related to an active, ongoing criminal investigation, some information that pertains to “time, date, location, and nature of a reported crime” is not exempt from disclosure. Barfield v. City of Tallahassee, 171 So. 3d 239 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015) (citing Fla. Stat. § 119.011(3)(c)1).
Records disclosed to a criminal defendant in criminal discovery lose their status as exempt investigative or intelligence information. Fla. Stat. § 119.011(3)(c)(5) (2020); see Satz v. Blankenship, 407 So. 2d 396 (Fla. 4th DCA 1981) (newspaper reporter was entitled to access tape recordings concerning a defendant in a criminal prosecution where the recording had been disclosed to the criminal defendant); City of Miami v. Post-Newsweek Stations Fla. Inc., 837 So. 2d 1002 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2002) (photograph of mayor’s wife taken after alleged domestic assault and statement made to police were exempt where defendant had not made a discovery request for the documents); Bludworth v. Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc., 476 So. 2d 775 (Fla. 4th DCA) (documents given or required by law or agency rule to be given to a person arrested are disclosable to the public); Rameses, Inc. v. Demings, 29 So. 3d 418, 423 (Fla. 5th DCA 2010) (holding that “disclosure to a criminal defendant during discovery of unredacted versions of undercover police surveillance recordings does not destroy, in a public records context, the exemptions contained in section 119.071 for information relating to the identity of undercover law enforcement personnel” and court could later order that “faces of the undercover officers be obscured prior to release of the surveillance recordings”). But see Fla. Newspapers Inc. v. McCrary, 13 F.L.W. 92 (Fla. 1988) (trial court may temporarily seal materials given in discovery upon proper showing embodying the 3-part test set forth in Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Lewis, 426 So. 2d 1, 7 (Fla. 1982) based on defendant’s fair trial rights); City of Miami v. Metropolitan Dade Cnty., 745 F. Supp. 683 (S.D. Fla. 1990) (public records law not applicable to actions of U.S. Attorney; U.S. Attorney’s release of photographs to defendants during pretrial discovery in pending federal prosecution did not subject photographs to disclosure).
The Act limits access to certain pending investigation or prosecution records of law enforcement, prosecution or regulatory agencies. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(a)(4). The exemption, however, specifically provides that "initial police arrest reports and initial incident reports" are public records and must be disclosed. It further provides that “an investigation or prosecution shall no longer be deemed to be pending when all direct litigation involving such investigation and prosecution has become final or otherwise terminated.” And it clarifies that the exception “shall not apply to records in the possession of an agency that is the subject of the pending investigation or prosecution.” Id.
An individual has a significant privacy interest in “[i]nformation identifiable as part of an investigation into a possible violation of criminal law, except to the extent that disclosure is necessary to prosecute the violation or to continue the investigation.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-14(b)(2). OIP has opined that an individual’s significant personal privacy interest in information identifying the individual as a suspect in a criminal investigation is not outweighed by the public interest in disclosure. Disclosure of the Identity of a County Employee Who Is the Subject of a Criminal Investigation, OIP Op. Ltr. No. 92-19 (Oct. 7, 1992).
Police reports for a closed criminal investigation which resulted in a deferred acceptance of nolo contendere plea must be made available for public inspection and copying. Disclosure of Police Reports, OIP Op. Ltr. No. 99-02 (Apr. 5, 1999). However, before disclosure, in addition to information identifying the victim and witnesses, the defendant’s social security number and home address and phone number must be redacted as information excepted from disclosure as government records which, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Id.
Idaho Code § 74-105(1) provides that investigatory records of a law enforcement agency, as defined in section 74-101(7), Idaho Code, under the conditions set forth in section 74-124, Idaho Code, are exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act.
Idaho Code § 74-124(1) provides that active investigatory records compiled for law enforcement are exempt from disclosure when the production of such records would: (a) interference with enforcement proceedings; (b) deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication; (c) constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; (d) disclose the identity of a confidential source and, in the case of a record compiled by a criminal law enforcement agency in the course of a criminal investigation, confidential information furnished only by the confidential source; (e) disclose investigative techniques and procedures; or (f) endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel. In practice, law enforcement agencies nearly always claim that one or more of the categories described above prevents disclosure.
“Investigatory record” shall not include: (a) the time, date, location, and nature and description of a reported crime, accident or incident; (b) the name, sex, age, and address of a person arrested, except as otherwise provided by law; (c) the time, date, and location of the incident and of the arrest; (d) the crime charged; (e) documents given or required by law to be given to the person arrested; (f) information and indictments except as otherwise provided by law; and (g) criminal history reports. Idaho Code § 74-124(3).
Idaho Code § 74-124(3) provides that “an inactive investigatory record shall be disclosed unless the disclosure would violate the provisions of subsection (1)(a) through (f) of this section.”
Open, unless release of the records would interfere with an ongoing or reasonably contemplated investigation. See 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(d)(i); Day v. City of Chicago, 388 Ill. App. 3d 70, 80, 902 N.E.2d 1144, 1153 (1st Dist. 2009) (ongoing investigation exemption did not apply when inmate convicted 14 years earlier requested murder investigation file).
Convicted defendants’ videotaped custodial interrogation was exempt under 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(a) because Criminal Code 725 ILCS 5/103-2.1(g) prohibited disclosure of electronic records with any statements made by an accused until each defendant’s right to appeal had been exhausted. Disclosure opens the possibility of “public disclosure of sensitive or embarrassing personal information, especially of an innocent person.” Hosey v. City of Joliet, 2019 IL App (3d) 180118 ¶ 15, 124 N.E.3d 1075, 1079-80.
Under Indiana Code Section 5-14-3-4(b)(1), access to investigatory records of law enforcement agencies may be provided or denied at the agency’s discretion. The statute does not distinguish between active or closed investigations.
However, under Indiana Code Section 5-14-3-5(b)(1), certain law enforcement information must be made available. See Althaus v. Evansville Courier Co., 615 N.E.2d 441, 446 (Ind. Ct. App. 1993) (holding that the investigatory records exception applied to the coroner’s files). This includes information about an individual who is arrested or jailed and also police logs of crimes, accidents and complaints. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-5(b)(1); see Post-Tribune v. Police Dep’t of City of Gary, 643 N.E.2d 307, 308–09 (Ind. 1994) (holding that the police department satisfied its obligation to provide the “location” of rape by providing the most specific location that reasonably protected the victim’s privacy, not requiring the department to provide the exact address). Criminal intelligence information is confidential under Indiana Code Section 5-2-4-6 and is an exception to the general disclosure rule under Section 5-14-3-4(b)(25).
Iowa Code § 22.7(5) excludes from required disclosure peace officers’ investigative reports, if the information is part of an ongoing investigation. Courts have acknowledged the State’s “real and important interest” in ensuring investigatory records are kept confidential. E.g., State ex re. Shanahan v. Iowa Dist. Ct. for Iowa Cty., 356 N.W.2d 253, 259 (Iowa 1984) (denying civil litigants access to confidential investigation files on a double homicide in a wrongful death case).
Defendants are entitled to access certain statements, reports, photographs, and other physical evidence prior to trial. State v. Eads, 166 N.W.2d 766, 768 (Iowa 1969). A defendant is entitled to access to “all evidentiary information which is in possession of the State and which is necessary to assure him a fair trial.” Id. To access this information, a defendant should request the documents and evidenced desired with specificity. Id. at 770 (citing State v. Kelly, 91 N.W.2d 562, 562 (Iowa 1958) (affirming the trial court’s denial of a defendant’s “broad and blind fishing expedition” where the defendant failed to demand specific documents and failed to show any such reports or evidence were in the State’s possession or even in existence)). A defendant is not entitled to gain access to copies of police reports as this could “unreasonably and unnecessarily impede the investigatory process . . . .” Id. at 774.
The Iowa Court of Appeals did grant a prisoner access to police investigative files following the prisoner’s criminal conviction where the State failed to establish that public interests would suffer by disclosure of the files and so the records were not privileged under Iowa Code § 22.7(5). State v. Henderson, No. 01-0295, 2002 WL 987851, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. May 15, 2002). In this case, the State did not present evidence that police relied upon confidential informants for information during the investigation and the case was not ongoing. Id. at *2. Without evidence of a particular public interest that would be affected, the Iowa Court of Appeals held the investigative files could be properly disclosed to the prisoner. Id. at *3.
Witness statements may also not be privileged where they were not made in official confidence to the officer. Shannon by Shannon v. Hansen, 469 N.W.2d 412, 414 (Iowa 1991). The Iowa Supreme Court applied a three-part test to determine whether witness statements were protected from disclosure to private litigants in a civil action surrounding a car accident. Id. The test requires that: “(1) a public officer is being examined, (2) the communications made to the officer were in official confidence, and (3) the public interests would suffer by disclosure.” Id. (citing State ex rel. Shanahan v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 356 N.W.2d 253, 257 (Iowa 1984)). In Iowa, a report filed by a law enforcement officer with the Iowa Department of Transportation regarding a motor vehicle accident “is available to any party to the accident and to certain others” under Iowa Code § 321.271. Id. at 415. Further, statements made by witnesses to law enforcement investigating a motor vehicle accident are not made in official confidence and thus their disclosure is authorized under Iowa Code § 321.371. Id. The court here recognized a distinction between criminal and accident investigations and between ongoing and completed investigations. See id. Litigation addressing whether body or dash camera videos are exempt investigative reports has produced conflicting results. See more in “Police Video” below.
Investigatory records are generally closed to the public. However, a district court may order disclosure in an action brought under K.S.A. 45-222 (civil remedies to enforce KORA) if the court finds that disclosure: (1) is in the public interest; (2) would not interfere with any prospective law enforcement action; (3) would not reveal the identity of any confidential source or undercover agent; (4) would not reveal confidential investigation techniques or procedures not known to the general public; (5) would not endanger the life or physical safety of any person; and (6) would not reveal the name, address, phone number or any other information which specifically and individually identifies the victim of any sexual offense in Article 35 of Chapter 21 of the Kansas Statutes Annotated, and amendments thereto. K.S.A. 45-221(a)(10).
Records compiled in the process of detecting, preventing or investigating violations of criminal law are not open. Mug shots are not open. Kan. Att’y Gen. Op. 1987-25.
Disclosure of KBI reports to applicants for licenses under the Kansas Parimutuel Racing Act is permissive under KPRA and Kansas Open Records Act, if K.S.A. 45-221(a)(10)(A-F) are followed. Kansas Racing Mgmt. v. Kansas Racing Comm’n, 244 Kan. 343, 770 P.2d 423 (1989).
In January 2021, a Kansas City television station filed a lawsuit against the city of Overland Park, Kansas, requesting the district court order disclosure of the Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Team report created in response to the officer-involved death of 17-year-old John Albers in 2018. See Petition, Scripps Media Inc., d/b/a/ KSHB-TV v. Overland Park, January 19 2021.
In April, “Overland Park released a nearly 500-page report…regarding the investigation into the 2018 shooting death of John Albers by former police officer Clayton Jenison….[T]he city announced it no longer planned to fight release of the report, which had been sought for more than three years — a fight which included a lawsuit filed earlier this year by 41 Action News.” Overland Park releases nearly 500-page shooting report in death of John Albers, April 29, 2021.
In 2021, the Sedgwick County District Court held that the city of Wichita violated KORA when it refused to disclose certain body camera footage on the basis that such footage was not in the “public interest.” See Memorandum Decision, Wichita Eagle and Beacon Publishing Company v. City of Wichita, 17 CV 2745. With regard to one of the claims in the case, involving a failure to disclose body camera footage of an officer allegedly involved in a hit-and-run accident, the court found that such event “is a matter of public interest because the community at large has an expectation that police investigations will be conducted fairly and appropriately, especially when a police officer is implicated.” Id. In the other incident involved in the case, where an Iraqi-American family was wrongly detained at a bank, the court found that “‘The Bank Incident’ is a matter of public interest because it became an issue of public controversy.” The court ordered disclosure of the videos. Id.
Records of ongoing investigations may be closed. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.878(1)(h). The exception may be invoked “only when the agency can articulate a factual basis for applying it, only, that is, when, because of the record's content, its release poses a concrete risk of harm to the agency in the prospective action. A concrete risk, by definition, must be something more than a hypothetical or speculative concern.” City of Fort Thomas v. Cincinnati Enquirer, 406 S.W.3d 842, 851 (Ky. 2013).
Records of concluded investigations are open. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.878(1)(h).
Records of active investigations are exempt, except for the initial police report. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:3(A)(l), (4). In addition, the home address and photograph of a law enforcement officer under investigation, as well as any other information deemed confidential by the law enforcement agency, may not be disclosed. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:2532; Op. Att'y Gen. 93-323.
Records of closed investigations are public records only after pending or reasonably anticipated litigation is finally adjudicated or settled. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:3(A)(l). In re Matter Under Investigation, 15 So.2d 972, 992 (La. 2009) (determination of whether criminal litigation is “reasonably anticipated” must be made on case-by-case basis in contradictory hearing with opportunity to present evidence and examine witnesses). Internal Affairs investigative records may be expunged upon request of the officer if the officer is exonerated or the agency finds that the complaint is unfounded or unsustained. Op Att'y Gen. 94-216.
Because there is no statute of limitations on a murder charge, the “reasonably anticipated criminal investigation” exemption applies to public records requests relating to the deaths of 43 patients at a New Orleans hospital following Hurricane Katrina, even though a grand jury refused to indict the only person – a doctor – that prosecutors sought to charge, and even though, as a practical matter, it is clear that no one ever will be charged over the deaths. Does v. Foti, 81 So.3d 101 (La.App. 1st Cir. 2011).
Access to investigatory records is governed by the Intelligence and Investigative Record Information Act, 16 M.R.S.A. §§ 801-809. With certain exceptions a record that is or contains intelligence and investigative record information may not be disseminated by a Maine criminal justice agency (a defined term) to any person or public or private entity if there is a reasonable possibility that public release or inspection of the record would cause certain harm identified by statute. See 16 M.R.S.A § 804(1)-(12). The list follows:
- Interfere with law enforcement proceedings;
- Result in dissemination of prejudicial information concerning an accused person or concerning the prosecution's evidence that will interfere with the ability of a court to impanel an impartial jury;
- Constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
- Disclose the identity of a confidential source;
- Disclose confidential information furnished only by the confidential source;
- Disclose trade secrets or other confidential commercial or financial information designated as such by the owner or source of the information or by the Department of the Attorney General;
- Disclose investigative techniques and procedures or security plans and procedures not generally known by the general public;
- Endanger the life or physical safety of any individual, including law enforcement personnel;
- Disclose information designated confidential by some other statute;
- Interfere with civil enforcement proceedings conducted by the Department of the Attorney General or by a district attorney’s office;
- Disclose conduct or statements made or documents submitted by any person in the course of any mediation or arbitration conducted under the auspices of the Department of the Attorney General;
- Identify the source of a complaint made to the Department of the Attorney General involving violations of consumer or antitrust laws.
In 2021, the Legislature passed An Act to Increase Government Accountability by Removing the Restriction on the Dissemination of Information Regarding Investigations. L.D. 894 (130th Legis. 2021). The Act repeals a 2013 law (16 M.R.S.A. § 807) that allowed state law enforcement to issue “Glomar” responses neither confirming the existence or nonexistence of information made confidential by 16 M.R.S.A. § 804. Id.
Records of investigations conducted by the Attorney General, a State's Attorney, a city or county attorney, a police department, or a sheriff; an investigatory file compiled for any other law enforcement, judicial, correctional, or prosecution purpose; or records that contain intelligence information or security procedures of the Attorney General, a State's Attorney, city or county attorney, a police department, a local correctional facility, or a sheriff are exempt from disclosure. § 4-351(a). Blythe v. State, 161 Md. App. 492, 525, 870 A.2d 1246, 1264, cert. granted, 388 Md. 97, 879 A.2d 42 (2005), Prince George's County v. Washington Post Co., 149 Md. App. 289, 324, 815 A.2d 859, 880 (2003); see also PIA Manual, at 3-34.
The documents of an investigation by a police department, sheriff's office or any of the other law enforcement agencies specifically listed in § 4-351(a) are presumptively compiled for law enforcement or prosecution purposes. Office of the State Prosecutor v. Judicial Watch Inc., 356 Md. 118, 737 A.2d 592 (1999); Superintendent, Maryland State Police v. Henschen, 279 Md. 468, 475, 369 A.2d 558 (1977); Blythe v. State, 161 Md. App. 492, 525-26, n.6, 870 A.2d 1246, cert. granted, 388 Md. 97, 879 A.2d 42 (2005). For example, the State's Attorney is neither required nor authorized to disclose a police investigative report or any part of it that was used for grand jury proceedings. 64 Op. Att'y Gen. 236 (1979).
Moreover, where the agency's files are prepared in anticipation of government litigation and adjudicative proceedings are pending or contemplated, such files are compiled for law enforcement purposes. ACLU v. Leopold, 223 Md. App. 97, 128 (2015); Equitable Trust Co. v. Maryland Comm'n on Human Relations, 42 Md. App. 53, 75, 399 A.2d 908 (1979), rev'd on other grounds, 287 Md. 80, 411 A.2d 86 (1980); see also 82 Op. Att'y Gen. 49, 50-51 (1997) (finding MVA records compiled during course of investigation into driver's fitness to be "investigatory files," but also finding such files are generally subject to disclosure to the driver).
If the agency is not a law enforcement agency specifically listed in the PIA, then it must show that its records were compiled for law enforcement or prosecution purposes in order for the exemption to apply. Office of the State Prosecutor, 356 Md. at 140, 737 A.2d at 604 (distinguishing Fioretti, 351 Md. at 78-79, 716 A.2d at 264-65 (Board of Dental Examiners was not among specifically enumerated entities and was required, therefore, to prove both that it was conducting an investigation and that production of individual records sought would prejudice that investigation)); see also Equitable Trust Co., 42 Md. App. 53, 75. Thus, for example, because the Human Relations Commission is not a named law enforcement agency, it is required to make such a showing. Id.
An agency might have records obtained from investigatory files of another agency. In these circumstances, the agency must withhold investigatory material if the agency that provided the information would itself deny access under the investigatory records exemption. PIA Manual, at 3-35 (citing 89 Opinions of the Attorney General 31, 44 (2004)).
A person whose complaint of police misconduct gives rise to an internal police investigation of the incident, is not the subject of the internal investigation and is not, therefore, a person in interest. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, v. Maryland Comm. Against the Gun Ban, 329 Md. 78, 617 A.2d 1040 (1993); see also Briscoe v. Mayor of Baltimore, 100 Md. App. 124, 640 A.2d 226 (1994) (complaining witness was not a person in interest, so denial of inspection of Internal Investigation Division file was justified on public interest grounds). Thus, if the custodian believes that disclosure of records pertaining to the investigation is not in the public interest, the PIA does not require disclosure to the complaining party. Id.
A custodian may deny access to a person in interest only to the extent that disclosure would interfere with a valid and proper law enforcement proceeding, deprive another person of a right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication, constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy, disclose the identity of a confidential source, disclose an investigative technique, prejudice an investigation, or endanger the life or physical safety of an individual. § 4-351(b). Because of a person in interest's favored status, a custodian must point out precisely which of the seven grounds enumerated in § 4-351(b) justify withholding of an investigatory record and explain precisely why it would do so. Blythe v. State, 161 Md. App. 492, 531, 870 A.2d 1246, cert. granted, 388 Md. 97, 879 A.2d 42 (2005)); see also PIA Manual, at 3-36.
Although this section appears to place a heavy burden upon a custodian seeking to justify nondisclosure to a person in interest, Maryland case law indicates to the contrary. See Attorney General v. Gallagher, 359 Md. 341, 355, 753 A.2d 1036, 1044 (2000) (person in interest was not entitled to obtain disclosure of records falling within mandatory exemptions of the Act); Office of the State Prosecutor, 356 Md. at 140, 737 A.2d at 604. Faulk v. States Attorney, 299 Md. 493, 474 A.2d 880 (1984). For example, the State is not required to make a particularized showing that the disclosure of investigatory police records compiled for law enforcement purposes to a defendant in a pending criminal proceeding would interfere with that proceeding; a generic determination of interference can be made whenever a defendant in a pending criminal proceeding seeks access to investigatory police reports relating to that proceeding. Id. However, a convicted defendant may obtain access to the prosecutorial file concerning the defendant absent the presence of one or more of the factors stated in subparagraph 2. See 81 Opp. Att'y Gen. 251 (1996).
Once an investigation is closed, investigatory files are subject to disclosure, based upon an amendment to the comparable FOIA exemption. See Fioretti v. Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners, 351 Md. 66, 716 A.2d 258 (1998); Bowen v. Davison, 135 Md. App 152, 761 A.2d 1013 (2000). Once an investigation has been closed, disclosure is considered less likely to be "contrary to the public interest." City of Frederick v. Randall Family, LLC, 154 Md. App. 543, 562-567, 841 A.2d 10 (2004), Prince George's County v. Washington Post Co., 149 Md. App. 289, 33, 815 A.2d 859 (2003). Where the internal police investigation concludes with a determination that the allegations are not sustained, fairness to the investigated officers and the avoidance of needless publicity to the cooperating witnesses, with possible inhibiting effects on future investigations, justify on public interest grounds, the custodian's denial of inspection to one other than a person in interest. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, v. Maryland Comm. Against the Gun Ban, 329 Md. 78, 617 A.2d 1040 (1993).
The Supreme Judicial Court has stated that there is no blanket exemption to public disclosure for investigatory materials; an exemption must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp. v. Chief of Police of Worcester, 436 Mass. 378, 383-84 (2002). Where the exemption applies, it must be narrowly construed so as to allow redaction only “of the names and addresses of witnesses and victims or to remove information on the record which if released, will so prejudice the possibility of effective law enforcement that such disclosure would not be in the public interest.” SPR Bulletin No. 3-03, “Public Record Requests and C.O.R.I.” (Sec’y of State, Nov. 21, 2003), at 4.
See also Republican Co. v. Appeals Court, 442 Mass. 218, 223 n.9, 812 N.E.2d 887, 893 n.9 (2004) (Public Records Law exception for investigatory materials is irrelevant to public right of access to materials submitted to court in support of petition for search warrant).
Nevertheless, the same court noted in Harvard Crimson, Inc. v. President & Fellows Of Harvard College, 445 Mass. 745, 755, 840 N.E.2d 518, 525 (2006), that under G.L. c. 4, § 7, cl. 26(f ), public records do not include “investigatory materials necessarily compiled out of the public view by law enforcement or other investigatory officials[,] the disclosure of which materials would probably so prejudice the possibility of effective law enforcement that such disclosure would not be in the public interest.” Such non-public materials, the court said, could include “accounts of police investigatory efforts including the police officer's own observations of the incident in question, statements taken from witnesses, additional information obtained from other sources, some confidential, and leads and tips to be pursued,” quoting Bougas v. Chief of Police of Lexington, 371 Mass. 59, 62, 354 N.E.2d 872 (1976). Moreover, the Supreme Judicial Court concluded: “The exemption set forth in G.L. c. 4, § 7, cl. 26(f), applies to both open and closed investigations. See id. at 63, 354 N.E.2d 872. Contrast Matter of a Subpoena Duces Tecum, 445 Mass. 685, 689-691, 840 N.E.2d 470 (2006).” 445 Mass. at 755.
In Bougas v. Chief of Police of Lexington, 371 Mass. 59 (1976), the Supreme Judicial Court refused to compel disclosure of investigatory materials, including letters from citizens who witnessed the incident subject to investigation. Even though the investigatory reports had been disclosed to a limited group and that the investigation had been concluded, the court found that confidentiality was necessary to enable the police to investigate.
Records of internal investigations are exempt from disclosure because otherwise, “employees are reluctant to give statements about the actions of other employees.” Kent Cty. Deputy Sheriff’s Ass’n v. Kent Cty. Sheriff, 463 Mich. 353, 365, 616 N.W.2d 677, 684 (2000). Internal affairs investigatory records fall within the meaning of the term “personnel record of law enforcement” as used in the FOIA. Newark Morning Ledger Co. v. Saginaw Cty. Sheriff, 204 Mich. App. 215, 514 N.W.2d 213 (1994). To show that disclosure of investigation records would interfere with the enforcement proceedings, “the government must show, by more than a conclusory statement, how the particular kinds of records would interfere with a pending enforcement investigation.” Evening News Ass'n v. City of Troy, 417 Mich. 481, 497 (1983); see also Mich. Comp. Laws § 15.231. See also ESPN, Inc. v. Mich. State Univ., 311 Mich. App. 662, 876 N.W.2d 593 (2015) (confirming trial court's order requiring university to reveal redacted names of student-athletes listed as suspects in incident reports).
Investigative data collected or created by a law enforcement agency is nonpublic while the investigation is active. Minn. Stat. § 13.82, subd. 7. Inactive investigative data are public unless their release would jeopardize another investigation, reveal the identity (or threaten the personal safety or property) of a protected victim or witness, or if they include images or recordings that are clearly offensive to common sensibilities. Id. In In re Quinn, 517 N.W.2d 895, 899 (Minn. 1994) (internal citations omitted), the Minnesota Supreme Court clarified that the “‘threat’ exception applies only ‘in cases where the person might suffer serious harm or retaliation’” and does not extend to emotional distress with respect to possible harm to one’s reputation.
Investigative records are exempt to the extent they involve more than an incident report. §§ 25-61-12(2)(a), 25-61-3(f). However, for closed investigations, records should become public if release would not harm the investigation or disclose investigating techniques or informants.
Section 25-61-3(f) defines an “investigative report” as a record of a law enforcement agency containing information beyond the scope of the matters contained in an incident report, which will generally include the following:
(i) Records that are compiled in the process of detecting and investigating any unlawful activity or alleged unlawful activity, the disclosure of which would harm the investigation which may include crime scene reports and demonstrative evidence;
(ii) Records that would reveal the identity of informants and/or witnesses;
(iii) Records that would prematurely release information that would impede the public body's enforcement, investigative or detection efforts;
(iv) Records that would disclose investigatory techniques and/or results of investigative techniques;
(v) Records that would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication;
(vi) Records that would endanger the life or safety of a public official or law enforcement personnel, or confidential informants or witnesses;
(vii) Records pertaining to quality control or PEER review activities; or
(viii) Records that would impede or jeopardize a prosecutor's ability to prosecute the alleged offense.
See MISSISSIPPI ETHICS COMMISSION Opinion No. R-10-008 October 8, 2010 Page 4 of 5.
Investigative reports are closed records until the investigation becomes “inactive.” Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.100.2. The term “inactive” is defined to include a decision by a law enforcement agency not to pursue a case, the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations, or the finality of convictions and exhaustion of all appeals. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.100.1(3).
Investigative records, active and closed, computation of criminal histories, confessions, confidential informants, and police techniques are all confidential criminal justice information subject to the balancing test. See also Montana Criminal Justice Information Act of 1979, Mont. Code Ann. §§ 44-5-101 to -515; Engrav v. Cragun, 769 P.2d 1224 (1989); 42 A.G. Op. 119 (1988).
Under Murray v. New Hampshire Div. of State Police, 154 N.H. 579 (2006), which reaffirmed Lodge v. Knowlton, 118 N.H. 574 (1978), the Court applies the six-prong test under the Freedom of Information Act for evaluating access to investigative files under 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7).
N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1 defines "criminal investigatory record" as “a record which is not required by law to be made, maintained or kept on file that is held by a law enforcement agency which pertains to any criminal investigation or related civil enforcement proceeding.” N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1 also states that “criminal investigatory records” are not “government records.”
N.J.S.A. 47:1A-3 provides:
- Notwithstanding the provisions of P.L.1963, c. 73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) as amended and supplemented, where it shall appear that the record or records which are sought to be inspected, copied, or examined shall pertain to an investigation in progress by any public agency, the right of access provided for in P.L.1963, c. 73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) as amended and supplemented may be denied if the inspection, copying or examination of such record or records shall be inimical to the public interest; provided, however, that this provision shall not be construed to allow any public agency to prohibit access to a record of that agency that was open for public inspection, examination, or copying before the investigation commenced. Whenever a public agency, during the course of an investigation, obtains from another public agency a government record that was open for public inspection, examination or copying before the investigation commenced, the investigating agency shall provide the other agency with sufficient access to the record to allow the other agency to comply with requests made pursuant to P.L.1963, c. 73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.).
- Notwithstanding the provisions of P.L.1963, c. 73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.), as amended and supplemented, the following information concerning a criminal investigation shall be available to the public within 24 hours or as soon as practicable, of a request for such information:
where a crime has been reported but no arrest yet made, information as to the type of crime, time, location and type of weapon, if any;
if an arrest has been made, information as to the name, address and age of any victims unless there has not been sufficient opportunity for notification of next of kin of any victims of injury and/or death to any such victim or where the release of the names of any victim would be contrary to existing law or court rule. In deciding on the release of information as to the identity of a victim, the safety of the victim and the victim's family, and the integrity of any ongoing investigation, shall be considered;
if an arrest has been made, information as to the defendant's name, age, residence, occupation, marital status and similar background information and, the identity of the complaining party unless the release of such information is contrary to existing law or court rule;
information as to the text of any charges such as the complaint, accusation and indictment unless sealed by the court or unless the release of such information is contrary to existing law or court rule;
information as to the identity of the investigating and arresting personnel and agency and the length of the investigation;
information of the circumstances immediately surrounding the arrest, including but not limited to the time and place of the arrest, resistance, if any, pursuit, possession and nature and use of weapons and ammunition by the suspect and by the police; and
information as to circumstances surrounding bail, whether it was posted and the amount thereof.
Notwithstanding any other provision of this subsection, where it shall appear that the information requested or to be examined will jeopardize the safety of any person or jeopardize any investigation in progress or may be otherwise inappropriate to release, such information may be withheld. This exception shall be narrowly construed to prevent disclosure of information that would be harmful to a bona fide law enforcement purpose or the public safety. Whenever a law enforcement official determines that it is necessary to withhold information, the official shall issue a brief statement explaining the decision.
North Jersey Media Group, Inc. v. Twp. of Lyndhurst, et al., 229 N.J. 541 (2017) - Where police fatally shot a man after a car chase, a media organization was entitled to disclosure of unredacted use of force reports under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) because under the use of force policy established by the Attorney General, which had the force of law for police officers, the officers were required to make and maintain use of force reports and, accordingly, OPRA's “criminal investigatory record” exception to disclosure did not apply. The Court, however, held that the dash-cam videos at issue did fall within the criminal investigatory records exemption and, thus, were not available under OPRA. The basis for the Court’s decision was that it was unaware of any Attorney General directive relating to the use of dash-cams. Additionally, it found that the dash-cam videos pertained to an investigation into actual or potential violations of criminal law – thus satisfying the second requirement of the criminal investigatory records exemption. The Court noted that it was unaware of whether the officers in this case acted pursuant to any local directives and that the “intriguing issue” of whether a local directive carries the force and effect of law would be addressed in Paff v. Ocean Cty. Prosecutor’s Office (see below).
The Court further held that investigative reports and witness statements, like the ones requested in this case, ordinarily contain factual details and narrative descriptions of the event. As a result, the danger to an ongoing investigation would typically weigh against disclosure of such records while the investigation is under way, particularly in its early stages. Thus, the Court found that while it may be appropriate to deny a request for investigative reports under Section 3(a) early in an investigation – as in this case – the outcome might be different later in the process.
In conducting the common law balancing of the competing interests in disclosure and confidentiality, the Court looked at the level of detail contained in the materials requested. It held that the interest in the integrity of investigations, asserted by the Attorney General in that case, is the strongest when it comes to the disclosure of investigative reports, witness statements and other comparably detailed documents. The Court found that in those areas, the State’s interest in confidentiality outweighs that of the requestor. The Court held that with respect to the dash-cam videos, which do not contain narrative summaries, the interest in disclosure outweighs the generic safety concerns raised by the State. Thus, notwithstanding the fact that the Court determined that the dash-cam videos fall within OPRA’s criminal investigatory records exemption, the Court held that disclosure of the dash-cam videos was nonetheless required under the common law.
Paff v. Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, 235 N.J. 1 (2016) - A General Order was issued under the authority of the Chief of the Barnegat Township Police Department that applied only to that department. The Order instructed officers to record by MVR several categories of incidents. It is undisputed that the MVR recordings at the center of this appeal were made in compliance with the Order. The Court held that the MVR recordings were not "required by law" within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1, that they constitute criminal investigatory records under that provision, and that they are therefore not subject to disclosure under OPRA. The Court agreed with the Appellate Division’s conclusion that the recordings were not within OPRA's "investigations in progress" provision, and that OPRA's privacy clause does not exempt the recordings from disclosure. The Court remanded the matter to the trial court for consideration of plaintiff's claim of a common law right of access to the MVR recordings.
The availability of investigatory records for public disclosure may depend on the phase of the investigation. New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, Inspection of Public Records Act Compliance Guide, 12, (8th ed. 2015). For instance, a person’s name will no longer be confidential once the investigation is closed and the person is charged with a crime. Id. “However, if the target of an investigation . . . is not charged, that person’s identity can remain confidential even after the investigation is closed.” Id. Generally, information obtained during active investigations is not publicly available, even after the investigation is closed, if it would reveal confidential sources, methods or information, individuals accused but not charged with a crime, or victims of—or non-law enforcement witnesses to—certain alleged crimes. See NMSA 1978 § 14-2-1(D).
An agency may deny access to records or portions thereof that are compiled for law enforcement purposes and which, if disclosed, would interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings. N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 87(2)(e)(i) (McKinney 1988).
Laureano v. Grimes, 179 A.D.2d 602, 579 N.Y.S.2d 357, (1st Dep’t 1992) (granting access to police memo books of investigation where no assertion of promise of confidentiality and confidentiality, if given, was lost since witnesses later testified); Ennis v. Slade, 179 A.D.2d 558, 579 N.Y.S.2d 59, (1st Dep’t 1992), motion for leave to appeal denied, 79 N.Y.2d 758 (1992) (denying access to records of narcotics buy operation); Scott v. Chief Medical Examiner, 179 A.D.2d 443, 577 N.Y.S.2d 861 (1st Dep’t 1992) (denying access to police officer’s memo book as exempt interagency material and as private property of officer); Cornell Univ. v. City of New York Police Dep’t, 153 A.D.2d 515, 544 N.Y.S.2d 356 (1st Dep’t 1989), leave denied, 75 N.Y.2d 707 (1990) (granting disclosure of police investigative file where witnesses were not promised anonymity); New York News Inc. v. Office of the Special State Prosecutor of the State of New York, 153 A.D.2d 512, 544 N.Y.S.2d 151 (1st Dep’t 1989) (denying access to investigative materials on possibility that investigation may be reopened); Auburn Publisher Inc. v. City of Auburn, 147 A.D.2d 900 (4th Dep’t 1989) (denying access to affidavits in police investigation); The National Alliance v. New York City Police Department, No. 21553/91 (Sup. Ct., New York Cty., March 10, 1992) (granting access to investigative records in absence of showing that disclosure would interfere with investigation); New York News v. Koch, N.Y.L.J., May 22, 1987 (Sup. Ct., New York Cty., 1987) (denying access to records pertaining to a pending investigation of Bess Myerson on basis of prejudice to fair trial rights, harm to witnesses, confidential information and privacy rights); In re Estate of Schwartz, 130 Misc.2d 786, 497 N.Y.S.2d 834 (Sur. Ct. 1986) (denying access to records of police and DA concerning possible homicide, without prejudice to a renewed request following completion of investigation or if criminal proceeding not commenced); Foley v. Wilson, No. 20250 (Sup. Ct., Wayne Cty., Nov. 23, 1982) (directing that records relating to pending investigation and criminal action be made available only after completion of proceedings, including breathalyzer test results and operation checklist); Butler v. McGuire, No. 40039/80 (Sup. Ct., New York Cty., June 2, 1980) (denying access to deliberative, advisory material prepared to assist DA in deciding whether to seek indictment in a homicide case); Glantz v. Lupkin, 100 Misc.2d 453, 419 N.Y.S.2d 34 (Sup. Ct. 1979) (denying access to Organized Crime Control Bureau report on grounds of interference with ongoing police investigation of organized crime); Maffeo v. New York Organized Crime Task Force, Index No. 92-18502 (Sup. Ct., Westchester Cty., April 14, 1993) (denying disclosure of applications made and warrants issued for eavesdropping surveillance pursuant to CPL 700.55; denying access to investigation interviews and lists prepared by the FBI; granting access to trial testimony transcripts).
Svaigsen v. City of New York, 203 A.D.2d 32, 609 N.Y.S.2d 894 (1st Dep’t 1994) (remanding for in camera review of police investigation records to redact non-factual, exempted information); Moore v. Santucci, 151 A.D.2d 676, 543 N.Y.S.2d 103, (2d Dep’t 1989) (the law enforcement exemption is not rendered unavailable because the investigation has been concluded, however, investigative statements lose cloak of confidentiality once the statements have been used in open court); Feebe v. City of New York, 95 A.D.2d 664, 464 N.Y.S.2d 367 (lst Dep’t 1983) (denying access to records of investigation of police conduct); Ragusa v. New York State Dep’t of Law, 152 Misc.2d 602, 578 N.Y.S.2d 959 (Sup. Ct. 1991) (granting access to Attorney General’s investigative records where allegation of interference with law enforcement is wholly speculative); Brownell v. Grady, 147 Misc.2d 105, 554 N.Y.S.2d 382 (Sup. Ct. 1990) (granting access to all witness statements except grand jury statements); Journal Publishing Co. v. Office of the Special Prosecutor, 131 Misc.2d 417, 500 N.Y.S.2d 919 (Sup. Ct. 1986) (granting access to undercover police tapes made during a criminal investigation after completion of criminal trial, to the extent needed to defend a libel action); Westchester Rockland Newspapers v. Vergari, N.Y.L.J., June 24, 1982 (Sup. Ct., Westchester Cty., 1982) (granting access to investigatory records, after redacting names and addresses of witnesses, where the investigation was closed four years earlier); Petix v. Connelie, 99 Misc.2d 343, 416 N.Y.S.2d 167 (Sup. Ct. 1979) (denying access to records of internal investigation of state policeman, although no charges proffered); N.Y.P.I.R.G. Inc. v. Greenberg, No. 3734-79 (Sup. Ct., Albany Cty., April 27, 1979) (granting access to records in DA’s office where investigation terminated); Matter of Woods, N.Y.L.J. February 2, 1995 (Sup. Ct., New York Cty.) (ordering in camera inspection of police follow-up reports (DD-5’s) to determine if they contain exempt opinions).
Most records generated by investigators while investigating a law-enforcement matter—whether enforcing a law with criminal penalties, or civil or administrative sanctions—are not public records until the trial for which they were gathered is over. See much more detail in discussion above for the exemption for "confidential law enforcement investigatory records."
The Attorney General, district attorneys and municipal attorneys may keep their litigation files and investigatory reports confidential. 51 O.S. § 24A.12. However, access to a document that would be available for inspection and copying under the Act cannot be denied because the public agency has placed it in an investigation file. 51 O.S. § 24A.20. Although not specifically addressed in the Act, all investigation files of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation are closed to the public. 74 O.S. § 150(5)(D)(1).
ORS 192.345(3) (formerly ORS 192.501(3)) provides a conditional exemption for investigatory information compiled in criminal investigations while allowing only limited circumstances in which a record or arrest or the report of a crime may remain confidential. This exemption can still apply when the investigation is closed, though the closed status of the governmental investigation decreases the government’s interest in maintaining confidentiality. See Attorney General’s Manual, § I(G)(a)(3).
ORS 192.355(1) (formerly ORS 192.502(1)) exempts advisory communications where the interest in encouraging frank communication between officials and employees clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure. In City of Portland v. Oregonian Publishing Co., 200 Or. App. 120, 112 P.3d 457 (2005), the court held that Portland Police Bureau records concerning the investigation and discipline of a police officer who killed a civilian during a traffic stop were not exempt from disclosure under this balancing analysis.
65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.708(b)(16)(vi) exempts:
A record that, if disclosed, would do any of the following: (A) Reveal the institution, progress or result of a criminal investigation, except the filing of criminal charges. (B) Deprive a person of the right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication. (C) Impair the ability to locate a defendant or codefendant. (D) Hinder an agency's ability to secure an arrest, prosecution or conviction. (E) Endanger the life or physical safety of an individual.
The Commonwealth Court has previously opined that material exempt from disclosure as “criminal investigative information” under the RTKL includes: statements compiled by district attorneys, forensic reports, and reports of police, including notes of interviews with victims, suspects and witnesses assembled for the specific purpose of investigation. See, e.g., Barros v. Martin, 92 A.3d 1243, 1250 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2014) (criminal complaint file, forensic lab reports, polygraph reports and witness statements rise to level of criminal investigative information exempt from disclosure); Coley v. Phila. Dist. Attorney’s Office, 77 A.3d 694, 697 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2013) (witness statements compiled by District Attorney's office are criminal investigative records exempt from disclosure); Pa. State Police v. Office of Open Records, 5 A.3d 473, 478–79 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2010) (incident report prepared by police with notes of interviews of alleged victims and perpetrators assembled during investigation exempt as criminal investigative information); Mitchell v. Office of Open Records, 997 A.2d 1262, 1265–66 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2010) (record pertaining to PSP's execution of search warrant was criminal investigation exempt from disclosure under Section 708 of the RTKL).
Under the Law, Pennsylvania courts have clearly distinguished between open and closed “investigatory records.” See, e.g., Pa. State Police v. Office of Open Records, 5 A.3d 473 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2010). Therefore, closed investigations may fall within the 708(b)(16)(vi) exemption.
Records for criminal law enforcement including “all records relating to the investigation of crime, including those maintained on any individual or compiled in the course of a criminal investigation by any law enforcement agency” are generally excluded from disclosure by Exemption (D) to the extent that disclosure could interfere with criminal investigation or enforcement proceedings, would deprive a person of a fair trial or impartial proceedings, could reasonably be expected to disclose a confidential source, would disclose investigation or prosecution techniques or procedures, or could endanger the life or safety of an individual. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-2(4)(D). The disclosure of these types of records is determined on a case by case basis using the factors set forth in the statute.
Some records may be exempted from disclosure including records compiled for law enforcement purposes where the disclosure would interfere with a prospective law enforcement proceeding; would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication; would constitute an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy; would disclose the identity of a confidential source; would disclose current techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions; would endanger the life or physical safety of any individual; or would disclose any contents of intercepted wire, oral, or electronic communications not otherwise disclosed during a trial. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-40(a)(3).
Investigatory records are presumptively closed. SDCL §§1-27-1.5 (5) and 23-5, generally. In active investigations they are closed. SDCL §§1-27-1.5 (5) and 23-5-10. The basic open records law does not specifically distinguish between active and closed investigations. SDCL §1-27-1.5 (5). However, the more specific law making “criminal investigative information” confidential might be interpreted to make that distinction. SDCL §§23-5-10 and 23-5-11.
Records related to active investigations are closed. Tenn. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(2). This closure applies to not only records created by law enforcement, but also records of third parties gathered by law enforcement. The Tennessean v. Metro Govt’t of Nashville, 485 S.W. 3d 857 (Tenn. 2016).
Records related to closed investigations are open. Memphis Publishing Co. v. Holt, 710 S.W.2d 513 (Tenn. 1986). However, Attorney General investigations are closed T.C.A. § 8-6-407. And so are TBI records. T.C.A. § 10-7-504(a)(1). And so are investigation of the department of corrections, internal affairs division. T.C.A. § 10-7-504(a)(8).
The Act specifically exempts records dealing with law enforcement agency investigations. Tex. Gov't Code § 552.108. This exception generally covers offense reports and personal history and arrest records maintained for internal use. See Houston Chronicle Publ’g. Co., 531 S.W.2d at 185. The first page of most common offense reports, however, is public when it includes information about the offense committed, crime location, identification and description of complainant, time of occurrence, property, premises and vehicles involved, description of the weather, a detailed description of the offense, and the names of the investigating officers. Id. at 186-87. Although prior opinions of the Attorney General supported the proposition that material is far less likely to be exempt under Section 552.108 when an investigative file is closed, see, e.g., Tex. Att'y Gen. ORD-378 (1983), the Texas Supreme Court concluded that the "statute's plain language does not discriminate between 'open' and 'closed' files," holding that Section 552.108's "blanket exemption" does not require district attorneys to disclose internal records, whether open or closed, that deal with detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime. Holmes v. Morales, 924 S.W.2d 920, 925 (Tex. 1996).
Section 552.108(a)(1) of the Act exempts information and internal records held by a law enforcement agency relating to an active investigation. Specifically, information that would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of a crime. See id.; see also Op. Tex. Att'y Gen. OR2005-10719 (2005); see also Tex. Atty. Gen. Op. OR2011-11538 (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). However, basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime is not exempt. Op. Tex. Att'y Gen. No. OR2005-10660 (2005).
Section 552.108(a)(2) of the Act excepts from disclosure information concerning an investigation that concluded in a result other than conviction or deferred adjudication. See, e.g., Op. Tex. Att'y Gen. Nos. OR2005-10866 (2005), OR2005-10876 (2005). However, as with information relating to an active investigation, basic front page offenses and arrest information, as described in Houston Chronicle Publishing Company and discussed in Section IV.N.2. above, are not excepted. Id.
Access to investigatory records may be restricted if release of such records (1) reasonably could be expected to interfere with the investigation; (2) reasonably could be expected to interfere with audits, disciplinary, or enforcement proceedings; (3) would create a danger of depriving a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial hearing; (4) reasonably could be expected to disclose a confidential source’s identity; or (5) reasonably could be expected to disclose confidential investigative or audit techniques. Utah Code § 63G-2-305(10). In The Salt Lake Tribune & Matthew D. LaPlante v. Salt Lake City Police Dep’t, No. 04-16 (Utah State Rec. Comm. Nov. 23, 2004), the State Records Committee held that the initial reports from a missing person case involving Lori Kay Hacking were protected because information in the documents identified individuals not generally known to the public who could reasonably aid in the investigation. The Records Committee also determined that disclosure of the information sought could interfere with the investigation or influence a potential trier of fact, thus creating a danger of depriving the defendant of his right to a fair and impartial hearing. Id.
Investigatory records concerning police officers are presumptively public under Section 63G-2-201(2). See Lawrence v. Utah Dept. of Pub. Safety, Case No. 120907748 (Utah 3d Dist. Ct. Aug. 21, 2013) (noting that the list of public records in Section 63-2-301 is not exhaustive). Where disclosure of such records will not constitute an unwarranted invasion of the officer’s privacy, and a compelling public interest in the record substantially exceeds any governmental interest in restricting release, the investigatory records will be subject to disclosure. See e.g., Lawrence v. Utah Dept. of Pub. Safety, Case No. 120907748 (Utah 3d Dist. Ct. Aug. 21, 2013) (holding that disclosure of Internal Affairs investigative records concerning investigation of requester’s complaints against Utah Highway Patrol Trooper did not constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy and that, even if it did, the public interest is best served by releasing the records); Carlisle v. Utah Cnty. Sheriff’s Office, State Records Comm. Case No. 16-49 (Dec. 19, 2016) (finding “that the public interest in having access to investigative records of police officers alleging violations of the public trust, outweighs the interest favoring restriction of these records, even though the police officer has not received formal charges or disciplinary action or the charges have not been sustained”).
Records dealing with the detection and investigation of crime are exempt from disclosure, but only to the extent that the production of such records:
“(i) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings;
(ii) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication;
(iii) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
(iv) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a state, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of a record or information compiled by criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source;
(v) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecution if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law;
(vi) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.”
1 V.S.A. § 317(c)(5).
The Vermont Supreme Court has clarified, however, that “arrest records are not records dealing with the investigation and detection of crime, but rather are the product of such an investigation.” Caledonian-Record Publ’g Co. v. Walton, 154 Vt. 15, 23 (1990). Recently, the Vermont Supreme Court held that “the public has a right to access the affidavit of probable cause because it is an agency record that falls outside of the PACR Rules and does not qualify as confidential under the PRA.” Oblak v. Univ. of Vt. Police Servs., 2019 VT 56, ¶ 16 (Vt. 2019).
“Criminal investigative files,” including any documents and information including complaints, court orders, memoranda, notes, diagrams, maps, photographs, correspondence, reports, witness statements, and evidence relating to a criminal investigation or prosecution, other than criminal incident information subject to mandatory release under the Act, are subject to discretionary withholding or release. Va. Code. Ann. § 2.2-3706.B.1. However, Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3706.1.B.2 requires the release of those records if the investigation or proceeding is not “ongoing.” “Ongoing” is defined as “a case in which the prosecution has not been finally adjudicated, the investigation continues to gather evidence for a possible future criminal case, and such case would be jeopardized by the premature release of evidence.” Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3706.1.A. The mandatory release provisions in subsection B are further modified by Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3706.1.D., which states that the mandatory release of records shall not apply if the release of such information would result in a long list of consequences, including interference in an ongoing investigation, deprivation of fair trial rights, unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, disclosure of confidential sources or investigative techniques, or endangerment of life or physical safety of an individual.
Specific investigative records are exempt if nondisclosure is essential to law enforcement or to protect a person’s right to privacy. RCW 42.56.240(1). The exemption covers only ongoing investigations, Ashley v. Pub. Disclosure Comm’n, 16 Wn. App. 830, 560 P.2d 1156, review denied, 89 Wn.2d 1010 (1977), and once the investigation is complete, the records are open. Hearst, 90 Wn.2d 123. Reports generated as part of routine administrative procedure, not as the result of a specific complaint or allegation of misconduct, are not “investigative reports.” Cowles Publ’g Co. v. City of Spokane, 69 Wn. App. 678, 683, 849 P.2d 1271 (noting that police reports regarding contact by K-9 dogs with citizen, generated as matter of course, are not investigative records), review denied, 122 Wn.2d 1013, 863 P.2d 73 (1993). Reports which could trigger an investigation and imposition of sanctions if warranted, but which are not themselves used for “law enforcement,” are not exempt. Id. at 684.
Investigative records related to pending criminal matters are presumptively subject to disclosure once a suspect has been arrested and referred to the prosecutor for a charging decision. Seattle Times Co. v. Serko, 170 Wn.2d 581, 243 P.3d 919 (2010); Cowles Publ’g Co. v. Spokane Police Dep’t, 139 Wn.2d 472, 987 P.2d 620 (1999). The state supreme court at one point created a categorical exemption for “open and active” police investigation files in which disclosure would jeopardize the ability to solve the case. Newman v. King Cnty., 133 Wn.2d 565, 947 P.2d 712 (1997). The court later clarified that the categorical exemption only exists for “information contained in an open, active police investigation file.” Limstrom v. Ladenburg, 136 Wn.2d 595, 963 P.2d 869 (1998) (refusing to extend a categorical exemption to work product materials under RCW 42.56.290). In Cowles and again in Serko, the court further clarified that the concept of categorical exemption did not apply once the case was referred to the prosecutor’s office, even if the files remained technically open. See also Sargent v. Seattle Police Dep’t, 179 Wn.2d 376, 314 P.3d 1093 (2013).
The “right to privacy” refers to matters that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person if disclosed and are not of public concern. RCW 42.56.050; Hearst, 90 Wn.2d 123. In a torturous opinion, a Washington court held that whether statements in public records are “true” bears on whether the records are of legitimate concern to the public. City of Tacoma v. Tacoma News, Inc., 65 Wn. App. 140, 827 P.2d 1094, review denied, 119 Wn.2d 1020, 838 P.2d 692 (1992) (ruling that police records of investigation based on unsubstantiated allegation of child abuse against political candidate were not of legitimate public concern). But see Hudgens v. City of Renton, 49 Wn. App. 842, 746 P.2d 320 (1987) (holding arrest report, citation, and patrol report must be disclosed despite acquittal), review denied, 110 Wn.2d 1014 (1988). In Bellevue John Does 1-11 v. Bellevue School District #405, 164 Wn.2d 199, 189 P.3d 139 (2008), the Washington Supreme Court held that the identities of teachers accused of sexual misconduct are not subject to disclosure in cases where the allegations were not substantiated.
Police body worn camera recordings are subject to disclosure except to the extent necessary to protect a person’s “right to privacy,” under a modified version of the privacy test discussed above. Certain types of recordings are presumed to be “highly offensive,” including depictions showing the inside of medical facilities and residences, intimate images, minors and the body of a deceased person. RCW 42.56.240(14). Public records requests for bodycam footage must also specify a particular individual involved in an incident, a specific officer, or the incident’s time and location. Id.
Criminal records on charges that have not resulted in conviction or other adverse disposition and for which formal proceedings are over are closed to the public. RCW 10.97.050; id. 10.97.030(8). Records of internal police investigations may be exempt from disclosure, to the extent nondisclosure is "essential to effective law enforcement or for the protection of any person's right to privacy," but these records are not categorically exempt (except, as with other investigative records, in the "narrow set of circumstances" in which "police have not yet referred the matter to a prosecutor for a charging decision and revelation to the defendant"). Sargent v. Seattle Police Dep't, 179 Wn.2d 376, 386–89, 392, 314 P.3d 1093, 1097–1100 (2013). An agency seeking to withhold internal police investigation records must "prove that specific portions of the internal file are essential to effective law enforcement." Id. at 394, 1101. Further, not all law enforcement internal disciplinary investigations are considered investigative records. For example, although a prison is recognized as a law enforcement agency, discipline records relating to prison medical staff are not investigative records. Prison Legal News, Inc. v. Dep’t of Corr., 154 Wn.2d 628, 640, 115 P.3d 316 (2005).
Once the special investigation is complete, the records are open. Hearst Corp. v. Hoppe, 90 Wn.2d 123, 580 P.2d 246 (1978).
The assertion that a criminal matter “remains an open and ongoing investigation” is not a sufficiently specific justification for refusing public access to a police incident report. Portage Daily Register v. Columbia Cty. Sheriff’s Dep’t, 2008 WI App 30, ¶ 13, 308 Wis. 2d 357, 366, 746 N.W.2d 525, 529. Non-disclosure may be justified under the balancing test, on a case-by-case basis, if the custodian can show “that disclosure would interfere with an ongoing investigation.” Id., ¶ 20.
Investigatory records generally are subject to the common law balancing test. Appleton Post-Crescent v. Janssen, 149 Wis. 2d 294, 441 N.W.2d 255 (Ct. App. 1989); Journal/Sentinel Inc. v. Aagerup, 145 Wis. 2d 818, 429 N.W.2d 772 (Ct. App. 1988). Basic factual information contained in police reports of firearms discharges by police officers are subject to inspection under this balancing, but police supervisors evaluative comments about the discharges are not. State ex rel. Journal/Sentinel Inc. v. Arreola, 207 Wis. 2d 496, 513–19, 558 N.W.2d 670, 677–79 (Ct. App. 1996). Investigatory records in the hands of the district attorney are absolutely immune from public inspection. State ex rel. Richard v. Foust, 165 Wis. 2d 429, 477 N.W.2d 608 (1991). Juvenile investigatory records are not open to inspection except for newsgatherers who wish to obtain news without revealing the identity of the child. Wis. Stat. § 48.396(1).
When an investigation is closed and no prosecution or disciplinary action is either ongoing or contemplated, there is no risk that releasing a police report will interfere with an enforcement proceeding or jeopardize anyone’s right to a fair trial. Linzmeyer v. Forcey, 2002 WI 84, ¶ 39, 254 Wis. 2d 306, 331, 646 N.W.2d 811, 821. A law enforcement agency’s internal investigation is deemed closed when the agency has taken disciplinary action; it does not remain open because of the possibility of review in arbitration. Local 2489, AFSCME v. Rock Cty., 2004 WI App 210, ¶ 20, 277 Wis. 2d 208, 225, 689 N.W.2d 644, 653 (fact that sheriff must defend disciplinary action in arbitration does not mean that records of prior, completed investigation become immune from disclosure pending outcome of arbitration).