Austin Court holds redacted video of traffic stop subject to release under PIA

Randy Travis v. Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Attorney General, 03-14-00314-CV (Tex. App— Austin, August 18,2016)

This is a Public Information Act case where the Austin Court of Appeals affirmed the release of police video information.

Randy Travis seeks to withhold from public disclosure a redacted version of the dashboard recording of his August 2012 arrest for driving while intoxicated. DPS received a PIA request and sought an opinion to withhold part or all of the recording (along with other documents).  The Attorney General determined that after certain redactions were made, the recording was subject to release. Travis sued to prevent the release. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Attorney General. Travis appealed.

First the court rejected Travis’ argument that video have a greater ability to harm so a different standard should be applied to their release. Next, Travis argued that since the state agreed in the protective order in his criminal case that Travis had a common law privacy interest preventing the release of the video, it was estopped from arguing differently now.  The court noted the interest in the redacted video in the PIA case is now different than the unredacted version in the criminal matter. Further, since the protective order in the criminal case was dissolved, there is not final judgment on that subject which would prevent an adjudication in the PIA matter. Next, Travis put himself into public view by driving naked while drunk. Anyone on the road could have seen him, so he has no expectation of privacy in the video. Finally, nothing in the redacted version indicates any medical or prescription information.  So, since the required release is only for the redacted version, no privacy issues remain to prohibit its release. The summary judgment order is affirmed.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. The panel includes Chief Justice Rose, Justice Goodwin, and Justice Bourland. Chief Justice Rose delivered the opinion of the court.  Attorneys for the Appellant: Mr. Martin J. Cirkiel, Lawrence J. Friedman, and Mr. John Nix. Attorney for the Texas Department of Public Safety: Ms. Kimberly L. Fuchs.  Attorney for the Texas Attorney General of Texas: Mr. Phillip Andrew Lionberger.

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