The Fourth District Court of Appeal recently released a decision that provides municipalities and law enforcement with significant firepower against public records requests for information obtained in criminal investigations. In Harvard v. Village of Palm Springs, 11-1192, the issue was whether the Village of Palm Springs (the “Village”) properly withheld law enforcement records, including a juvenile offense report and copy of a videotaped interview. The Fourth District sided with the Village, holding that the release was discretionary under 985.04(3) and that the investigation fell within one of the exemptions set forth in 119.071(2)(h)(1)a-c.
Jennifer Harvard, on behalf of her minor son, argued the Village was required to produce her son’s juvenile offense report because she fell under an exception of Florida Statute § 985.04’s confidentiality provisions. F.S. § 985.04 permits a law enforcement agency to release a copy of a juvenile offense report to a victim of the offense. Although the Village conceded that the plaintiff qualified as a “victim,” the Court held that any release would be discretionary, not mandatory. The Court held that the law enforcement agency did not abuse its discretion when it denied the plaintiff’s writ of mandamus to produce the offense report. In addition, because F.S. § 119.071(2)(h)(1) specifically exempts from public records requests a videotape of a victim if the video is taken during the course of a criminal investigation, the Court held that the plaintiff was not entitled to a copy of the videotaped interview.
With more than 30 attorneys practicing day-to-day municipal law, WSH’s Local Government Law Division is one of the largest municipal law groups in the country. Our attorneys interact with staff and elected and appointed officials as they strive to perform their public duties and to timely respond to virtually of the legal needs of cities. Led by Robert Meyers, our Ethics Group routinely represents elected and appointed government officials and local governments. Our attorneys have extensive experience analyzing public records law and assisting municipalities comply with public records requests.
Author(s): John J. Quick & Brooke P. Dolara