Public Access Opinion 18-016

Records of Traffic Crashes Involving Minor Passengers

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 18-016
Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Rock Island Police Department (Department) violated FOIA by refusing to disclose copies of a traffic accident report because it listed the names of minor passengers. On July 17, 2018, the Petitioner (acting on behalf of a law firm) requested copies of a July 4, 2018 traffic accident report. The Department denied Petitioner’s FOIA request, citing Section 1-7(A) of the Juvenile Court Act (705 ILCS 405/1-7(A)) as the basis for its denial and asserting that “all juvenile records” are sealed. The Petitioner appealed to the PAC, arguing that even though there were some minor passengers listed in the traffic accident report, none of them were investigated, arrested, or taken into custody and therefore Section 1-7(A) does not apply.

In reviewing the matter, the PAC looked to Section 7.5(bb) of FOIA, which exempts from disclosure “information which is or was prohibited from disclosure by the Juvenile Court Act.” It then reviewed Section 1-7(A) of the Juvenile Court Act, which pertains to “juvenile records” and states that all juvenile records that have not been expunged are sealed and may not be publicly disclosed. After analyzing the legislative history of the Juvenile Court Act, the PAC interpreted “juvenile record” to mean records pertaining to a minor who has been investigated, arrested, or taken into custody. Since the minors involved in the traffic accident were mere witnesses and were not investigated, arrested, or taken into custody, the PAC held that the report was not a “juvenile record” under the Juvenile Court Act and therefore Section 7.5(bb) of FOIA did not apply. The PAC reasoned that construing records like this particular traffic accident report to be exempt from disclosure under FOIA would be contrary to FOIA’s express public policy. As a result, the PAC ordered the Department to disclose the report to the Requestor.

This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.