Private Investigators In Virginia

PI Chatter Professional Investigators in Virginia

FOIA In Georgia Supreme Court; New Jersey Convictions

Posted by Bill on December 3, 2007

An interesting item appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, AJC, today concerning the release of police department records on unsolved crimes.  Under Georgia law, police departments can refuse to turn over files and records in a “pending investigation.”  In this case, however, the records are about a murder that occurred in 1992.  There has never been an arrest, and the case is “cold.”  The Athens Banner-Herald newspaper requested the records, but the request was refused under the “pending investigation” exemption to the Georgia Open Records Act, O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70 et seq.  The definition of the term “pending investigation” is now up to the Georgia Supreme Court. See whole story Here.

Virginia has a similar FOIA exemption category in Va. Code section 2.2-3076, Code.  Under this code section, criminal incident information must be released to the public if requested.  Criminal incident information means “a general description of the criminal activity reported, the date and general location the alleged crime was committed, the identity of the investigating officer, and a general description of any injuries suffered or property damaged or stolen.”  But, the Virginia FOIA provides that “where the release of criminal incident information is likely to jeopardize an ongoing investigation . . .  such information may be withhelduntil the above-referenced damage is no longer likely to occur from release of the information.”  To my knowledge, there has not been a Virginia Supreme Court interpretation of this term.  Perhaps, if it ever comes to that, the Georgia Supreme Court opinion may be relevant.

At least in Georgia and Virginia as well as most states, some criminal information is available to the public.  But, in Mississippi, Miss. Code 25-41-3, is interpreted by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (Mississippi Highway Patrol) very broadly to exclude furnishing any information under the broad exception “law enforcement officials.”  This term provides that a meeting of “law enforcement officials” is not open to the public.  But, the interpretation does not stop there.  DPS says if they wanted to they could exclude most everything from disclosure.  No Mississippi court has weighed in on this broad interpretation.  See story Here

 New Jersey Conviction Records

According to the New Jersey Home News Tribune, HNT, updated New Jersey Superior Court convictions records for 2007 and the last 10 years are searchable at Data Universe, the Home News Tribune’s public records site.  Good that more open records are out there and the public has access.

More post will follow on interesting subjects over the next few days.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

president@piava.org

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