Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Recordings Of Defendants Calls With Relatives Not Subject To Public Records Request

In Bent v. State (4D10-2726, 4D10-2727), granted petitions for certiorari filed by two defendants seeking to prevent the SunSentinel from obtaining recordings of conversations with their relatives.  The court described the facts as follows:
The newspaper sent a public records request to the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), asking for recordings of all the defendants’ phone conversations since their arrests, with the exception of calls made to their attorneys....Citing the definition of a public record in section 119.011(12), Florida Statutes, the court concluded that although BSO is not required to record the phone calls, it does so for legitimate security reasons and doing so makes the recordings a public record. The court concluded an exemption to the records request may apply if recordings include any confessions.
The court concluded:
We agree with petitioners that the audio recordings of the defendants’ phone calls are not public records subject to release....The Florida Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the notion that “almost everything generated or received by a public agency” is a public record....“The determining factor is the nature of the record, not its physical location.”....As we have previously recognized, the purpose of the Public Records Act “is to open public records to allow Florida's citizens to discover the actions of their government.”
Here, the phone calls themselves are clearly not public records. The issue before us is whether BSO’s recording of the calls converts them to public records. Although monitoring of inmate calls for security purposes is related to official business of the jail, maintaining recordings of purely personal calls is not. The recordings at issue are personal phone calls, as opposed to records generated by BSO, such as mail logs or logs of phone numbers called....Unless the contents of the call involve a crime or security risk, “perpetuating” or maintaining these sound recordings has no connection to any official business of BSO.


Post a Comment