Bougas v. Chief of Police of Lexington was a case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1976 concerning the exemption of criminal investigation records.
This case established that public records custodians were at liberty to release portions or entire exempted documents to select individuals and the press without releasing them to the entire public or negating their exemption.
- On May 2, 1975, police were called to the residence of Terry Brenner. The police attempted to disperse a crowd who had gathered around the house. The crowd grew rowdy and a number of injuries occurred. Three individuals were charged with misdemeanors.
- On May 21, 1975, the police concluded their investigation of the incident. In the process of the investigation, the police collected a number of reports from various police officers present, as well as letters from citizens.
- The police report was released entirely to the Lexington town manager and the board of selectmen. The chief of police also released portions to the press. These portions were included in an article on the incident which was run on May 8, 1975.
- On May 22, 1975, Bougas and others involved in the incident submitted a public records request to view and copy the entire police report.
- On May 271 1975 the police chief denied the request ackowledging that the documents were public records but claiming that they fell under exemption G. L. c. 4 Section 7 Clause 26(f), which exempts closed investigatory records.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of the police, claiming that they had adeqautely defended the position that the records were exempt under Massachusetts' law.
The Supreme Court concurred with the trial court and ruled in favor of the police.
The Supreme Court agreed that the documents fell under the exemption for police investigations found on statute G. L. c. 4 Section 7 Clause 26(f) which is designed to protect the investigation process, informants, and pretrial information. They further agreed with the trial court that the letters collected fell under the investigation exemption, because their release would harm future attempts to collect information from the public concerning other disturbances and crimes. The court finally ruled that the release of the documents to the select group of individuals does not negate the exemption.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Ruling of the Court