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  #1  
Old 09-17-2013, 05:38 PM
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Default Freedom of Information ACT (FOIA) for Texas

I am looking for information that would outline what the laws are surrounding the FOIA specifically for Texas. Any links would be appreciated. I am trying to submit a request because he tried submit a request and they ignored it. I want to see if I requested the same information if they would give it to me. I'm afraid he may not have done something right when he requested the information and that's why they ignored it. We are trying to get the police reports from the original investigation of the crime and from when he was arrested.
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Old 09-17-2013, 06:31 PM
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Texas Public Information Act is found in teh Government Code at Chapter 552. As a note, however, they are not obligated to respond to a request from an offender or any agent OF the offender outside of an attorney. Blame that one on the abuses perpetrated by those in Ad Seg many years ago for no reason other than harassing staff with duplicative requests AND umm, doing their thing in front of the mailroom women who had to go the cells to get the signature on the incoming mail. Those revisions took place around 2001.
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Old 09-18-2013, 05:27 AM
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So do I just Google Government code at Chapter 552? I tried that and tons of stuff came up. Sorry I'm clueless about this stuff.

Are those revisions in the code? I'm thinking that is why he isn't getting the information he is looking for. He can't afford an attorney and he needs those documents to help his case.
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Old 09-18-2013, 07:59 AM
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If you search for the "TX Public Information Act" instead of the code section it will limit the results. Here's a link to a summary by the TX state library.
https://www.tsl.state.tx.us/agency/customer/pia.html
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Old 09-18-2013, 06:27 PM
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I am not familiar with Texas, but recently used the FOI in Connecticut. It was surprisingly easy, however the material that I was seeking was not anything of much concern. Here are a couple resources:
From the office of the Attorney General: https://www.oag.state.tx.us/ag_publi...licinfo_hb.pdf

National Freedom of Information Coalition: http://www.nfoic.org/texas-foi-resources

Sample letters you might use: http://www.foift.org/resources/foi-letter/

I would suggest being very clear about what you need and spelling that out. You must also specify an amount that you are willing to pay for the materials. In my case, it was only $25, but this turned out to be more than sufficient. I also used my email address and told them that they could communicate through email if they preferred. I thought that this way, if there were electronic records it would potentially lessen the cost. Good luck!

Addendum:

After a quick look, it does not appear these records fall within FOI. There was something about the Texas Open Records Act...here's the link.

Also, you may want to see if you can qualify for Legal Aid...here.
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Last edited by InsomniaCT; 09-18-2013 at 06:37 PM.. Reason: add links
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Old 09-18-2013, 06:33 PM
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The restriction on responding to an offender or their non-attorney agent is spelled out in the statutes and has been for more than a decade...that was one of the 2001 revisions to law.
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Old 09-18-2013, 09:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CenTexLyn View Post
The restriction on responding to an offender or their non-attorney agent is spelled out in the statutes and has been for more than a decade...that was one of the 2001 revisions to law.
Can you link me to that because I can't seem to find it. Thank you!
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Old 09-19-2013, 05:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkAngel1962 View Post
Can you link me to that because I can't seem to find it. Thank you!
Sec. 552.028. REQUEST FOR INFORMATION FROM INCARCERATED INDIVIDUAL. (a) A governmental body is not required to accept or comply with a request for information from:
(1) an individual who is imprisoned or confined in a correctional facility; or
(2) an agent of that individual, other than that individual's attorney when the attorney is requesting information that is subject to disclosure under this chapter.
(b) This section does not prohibit a governmental body from disclosing to an individual described by Subsection (a)(1), or that individual's agent, information held by the governmental body pertaining to that individual.
(c) In this section, "correctional facility" means:
(1) a secure correctional facility, as defined by Section 1.07, Penal Code;
(2) a secure correctional facility and a secure detention facility, as defined by Section 51.02, Family Code; and
(3) a place designated by the law of this state, another state, or the federal government for the confinement of a person arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a criminal offense.
Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 302, Sec. 1, eff. June 5, 1995. Renumbered from Government Code Sec. 552.027 by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 165, Sec. 31.01(44), eff. Sept. 1, 1997; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1231, Sec. 6, eff. Sept. 1, 1997. Amended by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 154, Sec. 1, eff. May 21, 1999; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 735, Sec. 1, eff. June 13, 2001; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 283, Sec. 45, eff. Sept. 1, 2003.
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CenTexLyn View Post
Sec. 552.028. REQUEST FOR INFORMATION FROM INCARCERATED INDIVIDUAL. (a) A governmental body is not required to accept or comply with a request for information from:
(1) an individual who is imprisoned or confined in a correctional facility; or
(2) an agent of that individual, other than that individual's attorney when the attorney is requesting information that is subject to disclosure under this chapter.
(b) This section does not prohibit a governmental body from disclosing to an individual described by Subsection (a)(1), or that individual's agent, information held by the governmental body pertaining to that individual.
(c) In this section, "correctional facility" means:
(1) a secure correctional facility, as defined by Section 1.07, Penal Code;
(2) a secure correctional facility and a secure detention facility, as defined by Section 51.02, Family Code; and
(3) a place designated by the law of this state, another state, or the federal government for the confinement of a person arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a criminal offense.
Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 302, Sec. 1, eff. June 5, 1995. Renumbered from Government Code Sec. 552.027 by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 165, Sec. 31.01(44), eff. Sept. 1, 1997; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1231, Sec. 6, eff. Sept. 1, 1997. Amended by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 154, Sec. 1, eff. May 21, 1999; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 735, Sec. 1, eff. June 13, 2001; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 283, Sec. 45, eff. Sept. 1, 2003.
Am I reading this wrong. Doesn't the bolded part say that a governmental body (i.e. police department) doesn't prohibit them from disclosing information regarding the individual?
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkAngel1962 View Post
Am I reading this wrong. Doesn't the bolded part say that a governmental body (i.e. police department) doesn't prohibit them from disclosing information regarding the individual?
This is the part you need to pay attention to:

Quote:
Sec. 552.028. REQUEST FOR INFORMATION FROM INCARCERATED INDIVIDUAL. (a) A governmental body is not required to accept or comply with a request for information from:
(1) an individual who is imprisoned or confined in a correctional facility; or
(2) an agent of that individual, other than that individual's attorney when the attorney is requesting information that is subject to disclosure under this chapter.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkAngel1962 View Post
Am I reading this wrong. Doesn't the bolded part say that a governmental body (i.e. police department) doesn't prohibit them from disclosing information regarding the individual?
They aren't precluded but the law does not require them to do anything with the request from the inmate and there is no consequence for a refusal to process the request.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:20 PM
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Yes, I read that. I am just wondering what the part I bolded means.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkAngel1962 View Post
Yes, I read that. I am just wondering what the part I bolded means.
It means that if incarcerated person A or their agent requests information related TO person A, then the agency is not prohibited from the release.

But, the default is to reject the request. And there is nothing that can be done when the agency makes a decision not to respond.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:27 PM
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That's what she explained. They can disclose if they want but you can't make them.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:38 PM
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Okay, thanks guys! Sorry if I seem a little dense but it sucks that he needs those police reports and that he can only get them if he has an attorney. I wonder how much it might cost to get an attorney to just make the request and get him the police reports.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkAngel1962 View Post
Okay, thanks guys! Sorry if I seem a little dense but it sucks that he needs those police reports and that he can only get them if he has an attorney. I wonder how much it might cost to get an attorney to just make the request and get him the police reports.
Why didn't he contact his trial counsel who should still have them in the file?
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:46 PM
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Because his trial lawyer says he doesn't have them.
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Old 09-20-2013, 08:36 PM
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I had to do this for my husband. He needed some information from Texas. He is in a Washington Prison. I contacted an attorney here in WA. Told him what I wanted. I filled out the forms, wrote the letter and gave it to the attorney. The Attorney signed it and sent it off in the mail to Texas. The documents were sent to the Attorney. I paid the Attorney $50.00 for his 15 minutes of time to sign his name and stick the envelope in the mail. he mailed it to my husband as legal mail. Voila! Done.
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Old 11-03-2013, 10:22 AM
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I sent off my request on 10/21 and according to the sample FOIA letter they have 10 days to respond with either the documents I requested or a reason why they will not disclose the information. On Monday the 10 days is up. Does anyone know what the next step would be if I don't hear from them? Surely there must be something I can do without having to hire an attorney.
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Old 11-03-2013, 10:41 AM
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I sent off my request on 10/21 and according to the sample FOIA letter they have 10 days to respond with either the documents I requested or a reason why they will not disclose the information. On Monday the 10 days is up. Does anyone know what the next step would be if I don't hear from them? Surely there must be something I can do without having to hire an attorney.
what day did they RECEIVE it? That is the key date for initial timelines.

As to the next step, you can contact the OAG or you can file suit. Those are the only two options beyond waiting...but, filing suit will not be worth the time or funds because the Court will ultimately hold that they had no obligation to respond to you, citing the aforementioned provisions of GC.
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Old 11-03-2013, 11:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CenTexLyn View Post
what day did they RECEIVE it? That is the key date for initial timelines.

As to the next step, you can contact the OAG or you can file suit. Those are the only two options beyond waiting...but, filing suit will not be worth the time or funds because the Court will ultimately hold that they had no obligation to respond to you, citing the aforementioned provisions of GC.
They received it on 10/21 because I sent it certified, return receipt requested. I think I'll wait a week and then call to see if they received it. I'm not going to go as far as filing suit because as you say, it probably won't do a whole lot of good.
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Old 11-03-2013, 02:38 PM
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I found this to be extremely helpful in breaking down the steps. It is from Texas State University and provides the basics of the law. I hope it works for you!
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Old 11-08-2013, 10:41 AM
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also if no replies, take a copy to your congress officials, or fax, and they will submit it with their letter asking for a reply. I did this all the time when I was an inmate.

Plus state law makers for state records. Then I would get the records, never had to sue once. But warden was mad and said "here are your records", it was the state prison budget, 12 inches thick.
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Old 11-08-2013, 10:47 AM
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Quote:
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I am not familiar with Texas, but recently used the FOI in Connecticut. It was surprisingly easy, however the material that I was seeking was not anything of much concern. Here are a couple resources:
From the office of the Attorney General: https://www.oag.state.tx.us/ag_publi...licinfo_hb.pdf

National Freedom of Information Coalition: http://www.nfoic.org/texas-foi-resources

Sample letters you might use: http://www.foift.org/resources/foi-letter/

I would suggest being very clear about what you need and spelling that out. You must also specify an amount that you are willing to pay for the materials. In my case, it was only $25, but this turned out to be more than sufficient. I also used my email address and told them that they could communicate through email if they preferred. I thought that this way, if there were electronic records it would potentially lessen the cost. Good luck!

Addendum:

After a quick look, it does not appear these records fall within FOI. There was something about the Texas Open Records Act...here's the link.

Also, you may want to see if you can qualify for Legal Aid...here.

also check your state attorney generals office, and secretary of state, they will have a publication for each state on public records or sunshine laws. Ohio has a nice big book updated every year for last 15 years, and free.

http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/YellowBook
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Old 11-08-2013, 11:02 AM
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I received a reply today, certified return receipt requested. It was from the City Attorney for the police department. They said that all further correspondence regarding my request needs to be forwarded to them. Interesting that they got the City Attorney involved but maybe that is normal procedure. I don't know.

It went on to say that after doing some preliminary research that it appears I am an attorney licensed in the State of Minnesota, therefore pursuant to 552.222(b) of the Act, please clarify whether you are seeking information made the subject of the Request as an agent of or the attorney for (inmate).

Now of course I'm not an attorney. Someone didn't research very well which really isn't surprising but would I be considered an agent of him or not? I can't tell if that would be helpful in getting this information or not.

This is the portion that they referenced. I have reason to believe that their are BOXES of information regarding this case held by the police department that the attorney never received copies of. I am seeking ALL information and maybe that is too much to ask for but I have reasons to believe that there is information that will exonerate him contain in this evidence. I don't want to get into what information I do or don't want because I don't know what they have. I was pretty clear in my request that I wanted all documents pertaining to his arrest and subsequent conviction, but I put in specific documents I wanted such as DNA results, police reports, ballistic reports, etc.

Any suggestions on how to respond?

Sec. 552.222. PERMISSIBLE INQUIRY BY GOVERNMENTAL BODY TO REQUESTOR. (a) The officer for public information and the officer's agent may not make an inquiry of a requestor except to establish proper identification or except as provided by Subsection (b) or (c). (b) If what information is requested is unclear to the governmental body, the governmental body may ask the requestor to clarify the request. If a large amount of information has been requested, the governmental body may discuss with the requestor how the scope of a request might be narrowed, but the governmental body may not inquire into the purpose for which information will be used.
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