911 Recordings & Transcripts-State Statutes

Here is a compilation of state statutes and bills concerning public release of 911 emergency telephone recordings and transcripts.

Alabama
State statutes Sec. 11-98-12, enacted 2010:

  • Officials cannot release recordings without a court order finding “that the right of the public to the release of the recording outweighs the privacy interests” of the individual who made the call or any person involved in the incident. May issue a transcript upon request.
  • “This section shall not apply to law enforcement personnel conducting an investigation where the 911 telephone call is or may be relevant to the investigation.”

Alaska

H.B. 415 – In committee, not yet passed.

  • Would prohibit broadcasting 911 recordings but would allow transcripts to be read or transcribed.

Arizona

  • No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.
  • Arizona Supreme Court affirmed an appeals court ruling that police can release only transcripts and not tapes to satisfy public-records laws if they have privacy concerns.

Arkansas
There appear to be no restrictive laws. Recent recordings are available online.

California
911 calls fall under the California Public Records Act, which makes all records available to the public through request. CPRA limits disclosure of personal information by protecting the right to privacy over the public’s interest.

Colorado
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

Connecticut
Recordings are available online. No indication of extended privacy protections.

Delaware
No indication of extended privacy protections.

Florida
State statute Title XXVII, Chapter 365

  • Access open. 911 records can be broadcast with identifying information removed.
  • Tough restrictions proposed but tabled and likely dead.

Georgia
Ga. Code Sec. 50-18-72

  • “Public disclosure shall not be required for records that are … [s]pecifically required by federal statute or regulation to be kept confidential …”
  • “Unless the request is made by the accused in a criminal case or by his or her attorney,” no disclosure is required of “public records of an emergency 911 system … containing information which would reveal the name, address, or telephone number of a person placing a call to a public safety answering point, which information may be redacted from such records if necessary to prevent the disclosure of the identity of a confidential source, to prevent disclosure of material which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or persons, or to prevent the disclosure of the existence of a confidential surveillance or investigation.”
  • Article: Senate votes 50–0 to amend Georgia’s Open Records Act to add calls that reveal a victim’s “personal suffering” to a list of items that would be excluded, April 2010. The vote came in response to requests fromHustler magazine for gruesome crime-scene photos

Hawaii
No indication of unusual restrictions beyond the fact that under state law, all police department records relating to proceedings brought in Family Court are confidential, with limited exceptions.

Idaho
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

Illinois
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

Indiana
Prosecutor’s offices can withhold recordings under the Access to Public Records Act if it they are involved in a crime investigation.

Iowa
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions. Recordings are typically made available to the public.

Kansas
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions. Kansas Open Records Act generally allows recordings to be obtained.

Kentucky

  • 911 calls are public records with no existing specific stipulations in regards to privacy. Anyone can obtain and broadcast a call or transcript, as long as it doesn’t violate any provisions that affect public records in general.
  • These provisions are found in 61.869 and include: “Public records containing information of a personal nature where the public disclosure thereof would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” They require a court order to be released.

Louisiana
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

Maine

  • 25 M.R.S. Sec. 2929 declares “names, addresses and telephone numbers of persons listed in E-9-1-1 databases” and “name, address and telephone number of and any medical information about a person receiving emergency services through the E-9-1-1 system” to be confidential information.
  • Article: Police refusing to release recording for fear of interfering with investigation

Maryland
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

Massachusetts
No indication of unusual rules of restrictions.

Michigan
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

Minnesota

  • Statute says transcripts are public (and prepared upon request for a fee) but audio recordings are private to the individual making the 911 call.
  • “Audio recording of a call placed to a 911 system for the purpose of requesting service from a law enforcement, fire, or medical agency is private data on individuals with respect to the individual making the call, except that a written transcript of the audio recording is public, unless it reveals the identity of an individual otherwise protected under subdivision 17. A transcript shall be prepared upon request. The person requesting the transcript shall pay the actual cost of transcribing the call, in addition to any other applicable costs … 3. The audio recording may be disseminated to law enforcement agencies for investigative purposes. The audio recording may be used for public safety and emergency medical services training purposes.”

Mississippi

  • Miss. Code Sec. 19-5-319 bans the broadcast of 911 calls.
  • “All emergency telephone calls and telephone call transmissions received pursuant to Section 19-5-301 et seq., and all recordings of the emergency telephone calls, shall remain confidential and shall be used only for the purposes as may be needed for law enforcement, fire, medical rescue or other emergency services. These recordings shall not be released to any other parties without court order or subpoena from a court of competent jurisdiction.”

Missouri

  • Statute bans the broadcast of 911 calls.
  • “610.150. Except as provided by this section, any information acquired by a law enforcement agency by way of a complaint or report of a crime made by telephone contact using the emergency number, ’911′, shall be inaccessible to the general public. However, information consisting of the date, time, specific location and immediate facts and circumstances surrounding the initial report of the crime or incident shall be considered to be an incident report and subject to section 610.100. Any closed records pursuant to this section shall be available upon request by law enforcement agencies or the division of workers’ compensation or pursuant to a valid court order authorizing disclosure upon motion and good cause shown.”

Montana
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

Nebraska
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

Nevada
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

New Hampshire
Has a “Right to Know Law”; no indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

New Jersey
Typical exceptions to Open Public Records Act; no indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

New Mexico
Has a “Right to Know” law; no indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

New York

  • No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.
  • Proposed bill A. 3489, not yet passed, would prevent broadcast of 911 recordings.

North Carolina

  • Statute declares to be public record the “contents of ’911′ and other emergency telephone calls received by or on behalf of public law enforcement agencies, except for such contents that reveal the natural voice, name, address, telephone number, or other information that may identify the caller, victim, or witness.”
  • “In order to protect the identity of the complaining witness, the contents of ’911′ and other emergency telephone calls may be released … in the form of a written transcript or altered voice reproduction; provided that the original shall be provided under process to be used as evidence in any relevant civil or criminal proceeding.”

North Dakota
H.B. 1156, signed into law in 2011, exempts 911 call records from normal disclosure.

  • “A record obtained by a public safety answering point for the purpose of providing services in an emergency and which reveals personal information or the identity, address, or telephone number of a person requesting emergency service or reporting an emergency by accessing an emergency telephone number 911 system is exempt from section 44-04-18 and may be redacted from the record before it is released.”
  • “An audio recording of a request for emergency services or of a report of an emergency is an exempt record as defined in section 44 – 04 – 17.1. However, upon request, a person may listen to the audio recording, but may not copy or record the audio. A person also may request a written transcript of the audio recording, which must be provided to the person within a reasonable time.”

Ohio
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions. Harsh restrictions were considered in 2009-10 but not passed.

Oklahoma
Oklahoma Open Records Act allows anyone to (for a fee) to get a recording or transcript of his or her own 911 call. No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

Oregon
Measure passed in 2001 makes audio recordings of emergency calls exempt from the state public-records law. They cannot be broadcast. Transcripts are still available. Recordings can be released if public interest outweighs concerns for privacy.

Pennsylvania
65 P.S. Sec. 67.708 bans public broadcast of 911 calls. The following are listed as “exempt from public disclosure rules”:

  • “Records or parts of records, except time response logs, pertaining to audio recordings, telephone or radio transmissions received by emergency dispatch personnel, including 911 recordings.” Does not apply to a 911 recording or transcript “if the agency or a court determines that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the interest in nondisclosure.”

Rhode Island
R.I. Gen. Laws Sec. 39-21.1-17 bans broadcast of 911 recordings.

  • “All telephone calls and telephone call transmissions received pursuant to this chapter and all tapes containing records of telephone calls shall remain confidential and used only for the purpose of handling emergency calls and for public safety purposes as may be needed for law enforcement, fire, medical, rescue or other emergency services. The calls shall not be released to any other parties without the written consent of the caller whose voice is recorded, or upon order of the court.”

South Carolina
Under state Freedom of Information Act, cities have to prove that they would suffer particular harm in order not to release recordings/tapes of 911 calls. They are generally public.

South Dakota
State law says 911 call recordings and transcripts cannot be released unless the agency or a court determines that the public interest in disclosure out weights the interest in nondisclosure.

  • Records “not open to inspection and copying” include “[r]ecords developed or received by law enforcement agencies and other public bodies charged with duties of investigation or examination of persons, institutions, or businesses, if the records constitute a part of the examination, investigation, intelligence information, citizen complaints or inquiries, informant identification, or strategic or tactical information used in law enforcement training.”
  • Restrictions above don’t apply to records “relating to the presence of and amount or concentration of alcohol or drugs in any body fluid of any person.”
  • Restrictions also don’t apply to 911 recordings or transcripts “if the agency or a court determines that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the interest in nondisclosure.”
  • “This law in no way abrogates or changes §§ 23-5-7 and 23-5-11 or testimonial privileges applying to the use of information from confidential informants.”

Tennessee
S.B. 1665/H.B. 1429 (2011) — passed Senate, received by House — would restrict access to 911 call recordings.

  • Measure says all 911 call transmissions and all taped records of them “shall remain confidential and be used only for the purpose of handling emergency calls and for public safety purposes as many be needed by law enforcement, fire, medical, rescue, dispatching, or other emergency services.  The 911 calls shall not be released to any other parties without the written consent of the caller whose voice is recorded, or upon order of the court.”

Texas
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

Utah
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions.

Vermont
State law directly prohibits releasing identifying information. State has a 911 board.

  • “Information relating to customer name, address, and any other specific customer information collected, organized, acquired, or held by the board, the entity operating a public safety answering point or administering the enhanced 911 database, or emergency service provider is not public information and is exempt from disclosure.”

Virginia
Records are generally available for broadcast and to the public.

  • Sec. 2.2-3705.2 excludes subscriber data or any personal identifying information from 911 recordings from accessible public records.

Washington
Under state public records act, records open to the public for a fee with personal identifying information removed.

West Virginia
911 calls do not appear to be confidential unless they are for the purpose of reporting alleged criminal conduct.

  • W V Code Sec. 24-6-13 (2002 through Reg. Sess.): “Except as provided by the provisions of this section, calls for emergency service to a county answering point are not confidential. All calls for emergency service reporting alleged criminal conduct which are recorded electronically, in writing or in any other form are to be kept confidential by the county answering point receiving the call and may be released only pursuant to an order entered by a court of competent jurisdiction, a valid subpoena or through the course of discovery in a criminal action requiring the release of the information.”

Wisconsin
No indication of unusual rules or restrictions, although one was nearly passed in 2010.
Assembly Bill 612 passed one house but no action since April 2010. Would restrict some access subject to a “balancing test” of public interest versus privacy.

Wyoming
Title 16 – 4 – 203 – d – x bans even inspection of records except in particular circumstances.
“The custodian shall deny the right of inspection of … records, unless otherwise provided by law,” including “[i]nformation obtained through a 911 emergency telephone system or through a verification system for motor vehicle insurance or bond as provided under W.S. 31-4-103(e) except to law enforcement personnel or public agencies for the purpose of conducting official business, to the person in interest, or pursuant to a court order.”

Compiled July 2012 by Benjamin Ries. Neil Booher contributed to this research.

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