Many police records, including those relative to investigations in progress and investigations that never resulted in a criminal prosecution.
N.J.S.A. 47:1A1-1.1 provides that a criminal investigatory record is “a record which is not required by law to be made, maintained or kept on file that is held by a law enforcement agency which pertains to any criminal investigation or related civil enforcement proceeding.” The same statutes also explicity indicates that criminal investigatory records are not “government records” within the definition of OPRA.
While this exemption makes many types of law enforcement records unavailable to the public, the legislature also created a specific portion of that OPRA statute that makes limited information public about criminal investigations & police activity.
N.J.S.A. 47:1A-3(b) requires that certain types of information regarding a criminal investigation be made available to the public within 24 hours or otherwise as soon as possible:
where a crime has been reported but no arrest yet made, information as to the type of crime, time, location and type of weapon, if any;
if an arrest has been made, information as to the name, address and age of any victims. Exceptions to this are:
(a) when there has not been sufficient opportunity for notification of next of kin of any victims of injury and/or death to any such victim; or
(b) where the release of the names of any victim would be contrary to existing law or court rule.
In deciding on the release of information as to the identity of a victim, the safety of the victim and the victim’s family, and the integrity of any ongoing investigation, shall be considered;
if an arrest has been made, information as to the defendant’s name, age, residence, occupation, marital status and similar background information and, the identity of the complaining party unless the release of such information is contrary to existing law or court rule;
information as to the text of any charges such as the complaint, accusation and indictment unless sealed by the court or unless the release of such information is contrary to existing law or court rule;
information as to the identity of the investigating and arresting personnel and agency and the length of the investigation;
information of the circumstances immediately surrounding the arrest, including but not limited to the time and place of the arrest, resistance, if any, pursuit, possession and nature and use of weapons and ammunition by the suspect and by the police; and
information as to circumstances surrounding bail, whether it was posted and the amount thereof.
Where it shall appear that the information requested will jeopardize the safety of any person or any investigation in progress or may be otherwise inappropriate to release, such information may be withheld. This exception shall be narrowly construed to prevent disclosure of information that would be harmful to a bona fide law enforcement purpose or the public safety. Whenever a law enforcement official determines that it is necessary to withhold information, the official shall issue a brief statement explaining the decision.