99-09Posted on Dec 3, 1999 in Formal Opinions
Opinion Letter No. 99-09
December 3, 1999
Persons Named in Criminal Law Enforcement Investigations
The Department of Land and Natural Resources Conservation and Resources Enforcement Division (“DOCARE”) is vested with criminal law enforcement powers under chapter 199, Hawaii Revised Statutes. DOCARE provided a member of the public with a redacted copy of an investigation conducted into whether Maui County Fire Department personnel had illegally caught lobster out of season while on duty. All information that would allow identification of individuals named on the report was redacted. DOCARE asserted disclosure of their identities would be a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
The OIP followed the federal premise that identities of persons and suspects names in criminal investigations carry significant privacy interests, which in most cases, outweighs the public interest in disclosure. These privacy interests are diminished once an arrest has been made; however, in this case no one was ever implicated as a suspect, nor charged with a crime. Therefore, DOCARE properly redacted the identities of persons named on its report before disclosing it publicly.