Governor Signs Budget Bill Clarifying Public Access to Body Camera Videos

Category: Fire Watch
Date: Aug 8, 2019 03:33 PM

On June 27, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill No. 94 (“SB 94”).  SB 94 contains clean-up language for recent changes to Government Code section 6254 regarding the California Public Records Act (“PRA”).  As a budget trailer bill, SB 94 took effect immediately upon the Governor signing the bill into law.

Government Code section 6254 requires an agency to disclose video and audio recordings of “critical incidents” involving the use of force resulting in great bodily injury, or the discharge of a firearm by a peace officer or custodial officer at a person.  The disclosure of a record can be delayed for between 45 days up to one year, depending on the circumstances, if disclosure would undermine an active criminal or administrative investigation.

Under the PRA, withholding of records is also permitted to protect specified privacy interests.  Specifically, an agency may withhold records if disclosure would violate the privacy interests of a person depicted in the recording and if the person’s privacy cannot be adequately protected through redaction.  However, an agency must disclose the record to the subject whose privacy is sought to be protected (or to their legal representative).  SB 94 addresses when that disclosure must occur.  SB 94 amends Section 6254 to require an agency to provide the requesting party with the estimated date for disclosure of the recording, and allows the agency to withhold the recording if the aforementioned conditions are met.  

Sen. Bill No. 94 (2019-2020 Reg. Sess.)

Note:

PRA requests continue to raise complicated legal questions regarding whether records are public records and/or exempt from disclosure.  LCW attorneys can help agencies comply with the PRA and avoid court orders to disclose records or pay attorney’s fees. 

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