Criminal District Attorney - Requesting Information

A Criminal District Attorney is a statutorily created office that is legally bound to not only handle all criminal matters for the designated county but also all civil matters related to representation of the county, county officials, and all associated matters. The Texas Constitution provides for the office of County Attorney in each county.

However, the legislature may abolish the office of County Attorney by establishing a Criminal District Attorney for such a county. This legislative change took place in Comal County in 1997. Prior to this, Comal County had a County Attorney and a District Attorney.

The statutory duties of a Criminal District Attorney include the following:

  • Represent the State of Texas and victims of crimes in all criminal cases in the District Courts, County Courts-at-Law, and Justice Courts and in appeals therefrom.
  • Represent the best interests of our children in Child Protective Services cases.
  • Represent the victims of domestic abuse by obtaining protective orders against abusive family members.
  • Represent the State of Texas and victims of crimes in ensuring that justice is rendered for juveniles accused of criminal offenses.
  • Provide County Officials with written opinions or advice relating to the official duties of that official.

Jennifer Tharp
Criminal District Attorney

 

 

Requesting Information from the Comal County Criminal District Attorney’s Office

Introduction: The Comal County Criminal District Attorney’s Office (CDA) responds to numerous requests for information, also referred to as open records requests. Please note that the below information is for all persons requesting information; however, this DOES NOT apply to requests for discovery made by the criminal defense attorney or defendant if representing themselves (pro se) in their criminal case.

The Public Information Act. Under the Texas Public Information Act, each person is entitled to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees, unless otherwise expressly provided by law.

“Public Information” is information that the CDA collects, assembles, or maintains under a law or ordinance of in connection with the transaction of official agency business. For more information about the Texas Public Information Act, see the Attorney General’s Open Government publications at www.oag.state.tx.us.

How do I request public information from the CDA?

  • All Open Records requests MUST be in writing.
  • All written requests shall be addressed to the attention of Jennifer Tharp, Criminal District Attorney, open records department.
  • Written requests may be received via mail, hand-delivery, fax, or e-mail.
    • U.S. Mail: Address your request to Comal County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, Attention Public Information Officer, 150 N. Seguin Ave., Suite 307, New Braunfels, Texas 78130.
    • Hand Delivery: Leave your request with the receptionist at our office located at 150 N. Seguin Ave., Suite 307, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. through 12:00 (noon) or 1:00 p.m. through 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
    • Fax: Our fax number is (830)608-2008.
    • E-Mail: Send your request via e-mail to the CDA’s Public Information Officer. Web mail users need to address the e-mail to CDA_Public_Information_Officer@co.comal.tx.us

  

All written requests should:

  • Provide a detailed list or description of the specific information you are seeking (the more specific you make your request, the better and faster we can meet your needs); and
  • Include mailing address, email address, phone number, or other means to contact you regarding your request.

Texas law states that the CDA cannot ask you why you need the information. However, we may ask you to clarify your request in order to determine the documents that pertain to your request and to avoid sending you too much or too little information.

The Public Information Act does not require the CDA to answer factual questions, conduct legal research or create new information in responding to a request. Open Records Decision Nos. 563 at 8 (1990) and 555 at 1-2 (1990). Likewise, the Act does not require a governmental body to take affirmative steps to create or obtain information that is not in its possession, so long as no other individual or entity holds the information on behalf of the governmental body that receives the request. Section 552.002(a); Open Records Decision Nos. 534 at 2-3 (1989) and 518 at 3 (1989).

 

How is public information provided to me?

If the document you seek is available electronically, and you prefer it in that form, we can usually provide the information on a compact disc or send it to you via e-mail. Otherwise, we will send paper copies to you via standard U.S. mail.

If you prefer to merely view the information, please state that in your written request. When your request is received, the Public Information Officer will contact you to set an appointment for you to come to our office and view the documents. Any information that is confidential by law will be removed from the documents you view.

 

How long does my request take?

The Public Information Act generally gives the CDA ten (10) business days to fill requests. If our office needs additional time, we will let you know the date and time the information will be available. We will also let you know if we do not have the information you are seeking.

Please remember, the more specific your request is, the quicker we are able to locate the documents and provide them to you.

Note that you may face greater delays if you request documents that contain confidential or exempt information. When a requestor asks for information the CDA believes is exempt from public disclosure, the CDA must forward the request and documents to the Texas Attorney General’s Office for a ruling about the disclosure within ten (10) business days of receiving the request. You will receive a copy of CDA’s request to the Texas Attorney General’s Office without the enclosed documents.

A typical exception that applies to documents of the CDA is the Law Enforcement Exception wherein release of the information would:

  • Interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of a crime;
  • Information that relates to an investigation that did not result in a conviction or deferred adjudication;
  • Information relating to a threat against a peace officer or detention officer; and
  • Information prepared by prosecutors or that reflects the prosecutor’s mental impressions or legal reasoning. Section 552.108 Texas Government Code

Common examples of confidential information include the identity of an informant and offense reports or court documents of juvenile offenders.

To speed up the process, you may want to state in your request that you do not wish to receive information deemed confidential or exempt by the Public Information Act, statutes, or case law. When you indicate this, we will automatically remove any such information from your requested materials and send along the remainder of the information to you.

 

Do I have to pay for the information?

As a general rule, if the number of pages total more than 50, you will be assessed charges to cover the costs associated with processing your request, including overhead labor charges as recommended by the AG.

If your request triggers charges, we will notify you of the estimated charges and wait for you to accept the charges before completing your request. If the estimated cost exceeds $100.00, you will be required to prepay a deposit or bond before the CDA will provide the documents.

In accepting the charges, please put this in writing to the Public Information Officer. Once our office receives the acceptance for your records we will mail the records to you or allow you to pick them up which ever you prefer. Please state your preference in your acceptance of the charges.

 

Common Charges include:

  • Copies and/or printouts (letter and legal size)- $0.10 per page
  • Personnel, non-programming- $15.00 hour
  • Personnel, programming- $28.50 hour
  • Postage- Actual Cost
  • CD- $1.00 each
  • DVD- $5.00 each
  • Other electronic media - actual cost
  • Overhead Charge- 20% of personnel

Please note that the CDA’s Office provides standard, not certified copies of CDA records.

Most requests do not end up costing the requestor anything. However, if filling your request entails a great deal of time, effort, or materials on the CDA’s part, you may face some costs.

Comal County has set a 36-hour limit on the amount of time that personnel are required to spend producing public information for inspection or duplication by a requestor, or providing copies of public information to a requestor, without recovering its costs attributable to that personnel time. This time limit is for a 12-month period that corresponds to Comal County’s fiscal year. Section 552.275 Texas Government Code

The Texas Attorney General’s Open Records Division provides an Open Government Hotline staffed by attorneys who specialize in both the Public Information Act and the Open Meetings Act. They can answer questions and help resolve disputes involving open government laws. The Hotline can be reached at (512)478-OPEN (6736) or toll-free at (877)OPEN TEX (673-6839). The mailing address for the Open Records Division is P.O. Box 12548, Austin, Texas 78711.