Thursday, January 15, 2015
NorCo DA: Audio-Visuals of Traffic Stops Might Be Public Records
I appealed this denial, both to the State Office of Open Records and to the District Attorney. The reason for the two-pronged appeal was uncertainty over whether the state agency or the District Attorney has jurisdiction. The District Attorney deferred taking action pending a final determination from the state.
On Monday, the state ruled that it lacks jurisdiction, clearing the road for the District Attorney to consider whether the record was exempt from disclosure as part of a criminal investigation.
In a ruling handed down by the District Attorney himself, he concludes that the record must be disclosed. "While in certain circumstances, some or all of audio/visual recording of a traffic stop may constitute a record of a criminal investigation, the circumstances of the instant matter do not demonstrate how the sought recordings in this case are exempt. According to information provided, the respondent's police department made a traffic stop of [redacted]. He was issued a traffic citation. he pleaded guilty and paid a fine. The case is now closed."
Bethlehem Township can, of course, appeal this decision.
Whether I have more to say about this matter depends on what I see and hear when I get my hands on the audio/visual. Until that happens, I will remain silent. I have no desire to hammer someone over a mere traffic stop.
The reason for this post is two-fold. First, I want to establish that, in Northampton County at least, the audio/visual of a completed traffic stop is a public record, so long as there is no other ongoing investigation.. This ruling is consistent with other case law. Second, I need to rebut the false report made elsewhere that incorrectly claimed my records request was denied. It was actually granted, and by the office that has jurisdiction.