Friday, September 22, 2006
Lockyer: District Attorney Cannot Make ‘Rap Sheets’ Public
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Criminal history records and similar documents maintained in a database by a district attorney are not public records and cannot be disclosed, other than to persons and agencies specifically designated by law, Attorney General Bill Lockyer has opined.
Responding to a request by Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, Lockyer said that criminal histories, otherwise known as “rap sheets,” are among the categories of criminal case records that are both exempt from the California Public Records Act and confidential under the Penal Code.
The opinion, No. 06-203, was prepared for Lockyer by Deputy Attorney General Daniel G. Stone and made public yesterday.
There is, the attorney general acknowledged, an apparent conflict between the CPRA, which is designed to further open government, and the relevant Penal Code provisions, which limit intrusion into the lives of persons accused of crimes or otherwise involved in criminal investigations.
Lockyer explained that the CPRA exempts from mandatory disclosure the “investigatory or security files” of law enforcement agencies, although the exemption is conditional upon disclosure of certain information that may be contained in the files, such as the date, time, place and factual circumstances of an arrest.
The attorney general also noted that a CPRA exemption is not a mandate not to disclose, so the agency has discretion to disclose exempt information, provided the disclosure is not prohibited by another provision of law and that a disclosure made to one person is made to all persons who request it.
Cooley inquired as to whether his office could disclose records showing “(1) whether a recently charged or soon-to-be charged defendant is currently on probation or parole, and details of his or her prior offenses; (2) an individual’s criminal history in the county, including all arrests and case dispositions; (3) the disposition of matters referred to the district attorney for filing of criminal charges; (4) criminal histories associated with a requested list of cases in which a specified witness has testified; or (5) numerous criminal histories associated with a request for the names and identities of all defendants charged with a specific kind of crime over a period of years.”
The attorney general concluded that all records encompassed by the request are specifically barred from disclosure by Penal Code Secs. 13300 through 13305, except that disclosure of limited information is required as to category (3), and is also required as to category (1) in the relatively few cases in which the prosecutor’s office is the arresting agency.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company