This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
The Public Records Act, often referred to as PRA, is meant to give the public access to information in the possession of public agencies. The purpose of PRA requests is to promote transparency of government and ensure accountability for agencies funded by the public by allowing individuals to request documents to inspect and review. There are some exceptions to this law which protect confidential information, but agencies have the burden of justifying why such information is protected.
How do I use it?
If you’re interested in a city’s policy on a specific issue or procedure and protocol for given situations, this is information you can request from the city or a relevant agency such as a police department. As related to the issue of car impoundments and checkpoints, you can request to view copies of training given to officers on the subject, directives with instructions for officers, memos describing decision-making, and results of checkpoints. You can ask for information for any given time period for up to five years prior to the date of your request. Those are just a few examples of the types of information you can request.
Where do I send it?
Most city agencies will have a specific person who handles “records” or document requests. For the city you should send requests to the city clerk, whose contact information (name, email and mailing address) you can find on your city website. In addition, if you are requesting documents from the police department, you should send your request to the chief of police and copy the city clerk. For other agencies, it’s a good rule of thumb to send your requests to the head of the agency in addition to anyone else you are able to identify.
An agency has ten days to respond to your request and may ask for extensions of time depending on its ability to collect the requested materials. If fees are requested you can ask for a waiver of those fees. Fees should only reflect the actual cost of copying. When you receive the documents review any references to materials that were withheld and the reasons stated. Review the documents you did receive and identify your next course of action.
November 15, 2010
City of Bell City Clerk Attn: Rebecca Valdez 6330 Pine Ave Bell, CA 90201 CC: James Casso, Interim City Attorney; City of Bell Chief of Police RE: California Public Records Act Request
Dear Ms. Valdez, I write to request copies of certain records under the California Public Records Act. Government Code §6250 et. seq., and the California Constitution, as amended by passage of Prop. 59 on November 3, 2004. Please forward copies to me of any and all memoranda, reports, studies, materials, or other documents that reflect or explain city-level policy or police departmentwide orders in place regarding the towing and impounding of vehicles. Please include the order or policy number and the text of the order or policy as well as: 1. Regulations, ordinances, resolutions, contracts or other writings, including compilations: a. Specifying under what circumstances a vehicle is subject to impoundment pursuant to Vehicle Code § 14602.6 (a), at any time since October of 2007. b. Specifying the circumstances, requirements, conditions, and/or terms under which any entity, corporation, or individual is permitted to tow, store, impound, sell and/or dispose of vehicles seized pursuant to Vehicle Code § 14602.6 (a), at any time since October of 2007. c. Identifying the entity, corporation, or individual entitled to tow, store, impound, sell and/or dispose of vehicles seized pursuant to Vehicle Code § 14602.6 (a), at any time since October of 2007. d. Specifying under what circumstances a vehicle impounded pursuant to Vehicle Code § 14602.6(a) may and/or shall be released to the registered owner and/or any other person before the expiration of thirty days, at any time since October 2007. e. Specifying the charge levied for “administrative costs” “relating to
Page 2 November 15, 2010 the removal, impound, storage, or release of the vehicle” pursuant to Vehicle Code §22850.5(a), at any time since October 2007. Reflecting the total amount of “administrative costs” “relating to the removal, impound, storage, or release of the vehicle” as specified in Vehicle Code §22850.5(a) collected each year beginning 2007, including 2010. Stating, since October2007, how the “administrative costs” “relating to the removal, impound, storage, or release of the vehicle” as specified in §22850.5(a) were set and showing what costs were considered in setting the charge. Reflecting the number of vehicles impounded pursuant to Vehicle Code § 14602.6(a) in each year beginning 2007, including 2010 and the basis for that impound.
A blank copy of any writing(s) utilized to provide notice to any person, including the driver, legal owner, and/or registered owner, relating to: a. The seizure, towing, storage, impoundment, and/or repossession of any impounded vehicle, including any vehicle impounded pursuant to Vehicle Code § 14602.6(a) and/or Vehicle Code 22651, at any time since October 2007. b. Any hearing, or the right to a hearing, regarding any impounded vehicle, including any vehicle impounded pursuant to Vehicle Code § 14602.6(a) and/or Vehicle Code 22651, at any time since October 2007 and the result of such hearing (early release/denial). Manuals, literature, materials or other items distributed by the City or Police Department to its officers, employees and/or agents informing them of the policies and procedures regarding the seizure and/or impoundment of vehicles including information specific to the seizure and/or impoundment of vehicles from unlicensed drivers.
As you know, under Section 6256, your office is required to respond within ten days from receipt of this request. To the extent that your office claims the right to withhold any record, or portion thereof, please describe with specificity each record or portion withheld and the claimed reason for exemption, citing the exact language of the Public Records Act on which you rely. Please feel free to contact me at (714) 450-3962, ext. 101 should you have any questions. As a not for profit agency we request that you waive any copying fees. If you are unable to do so, please inform us of any duplicating costs exceeding $50 before copying, electronic materials, where available are also acceptable. No part of the information obtained will be distributed or sold for profit. Sincerely,
Lucero Chavez Immigrant Rights Attorney