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Augusta Press, Inc. v. Roundtree

Georgia Open Records Act – Augusta Press, Inc. v. Roundtree, A23A0552, 2023 WL 3593300 (Ga. Ct. App. May 23, 2023)

An audio/video recording of the county sheriff in a private home in response to a 911 call is required to be disclosed under the Open Records Act. Here’s the excerpt of the holding:

In other words, the audio or video is not subject to release if, but for law enforcement’s presence for a pending investigation, it is made in a place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Suffice it to say, there is undoubtedly a reasonable expectation of privacy in one’s home, as repeatedly and emphatically established in both federal and state Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.14 And so, the Alls undoubtedly had a reasonable expectation of privacy at their home in the absence of a pending law enforcement investigation—no matter who called for the police.15 The resulting body-camera footage from that investigation, then, is exempt from release under the plain language of OCGA § 50-18-72 (a) (26.2). The trial court properly concluded, then, that the Augusta Press was not entitled to review the footage.

In addition, since no narrative report was created during the incident, there was no requirement for disclosure.

The Open Records Act provides that initial incident reports prepared during law-enforcement investigations are subject to release,18 but “[n]o public officer or agency shall be required to prepare new reports, summaries, or compilations not in existence at the time of the request.”19 And here, the sheriff’s department did not create an initial incident report and only prepared the aforementioned family violence report, which is exempt from release.20 Nevertheless, the Augusta Press argues the narrative account of the May 3, 2022 incident contained within the family violence report is subject to release while the remainder of the report may be redacted. This argument is a nonstarter.