Access of relatives to murder investigation files
Q: Do I have access to my sister’s unsolved 1977 murder investigation files and if any DNA profile was done?
A: Under the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”), documents maintained by state and local agencies are presumed to be public records unless the documents in question fall under one of the enumerated exemptions to disclosure. Based on the information you have provided, it is likely that some of the documents you seek would be exempt from disclosure under Government Code section 6254(f), which allows law enforcement agencies to refuse to release records of investigations.
Authorized representatives of victims are entitled to certain additional information that is not otherwise available to the general public (identities of persons involved in the incident, description of any property involved, identity of witnesses, and any diagrams or statements of witnesses). However, even authorized representatives of victims are not entitled to obtain “that portion of …investigative files that reflect the analysis or conclusion of the investigating officer.”Government Code section 6254(f) does not specifically address whether a victim’s representative is entitled to DNA profile information; however, the investigating agency may be able to withhold any records pertaining to DNA profile information under section 6254(f).You should be aware, however, that the CPRA exemption for records of investigations is optional. In other words, even if the section 6254(f) exemption applies to some of the records you seek, the law enforcement agency is free to release those records if it chooses to do so.
Given that you seek information about an investigation of a murder that occurred almost 30 years ago, it may be that the law enforcement agency will agree to release the information if you ask for it. Moreover, under a new provision of the CPRA (Government Code section 6253.1), public agencies are required to assist persons making a CPRA request in identifying records responsive to the request. Thus, at the very least, you should ask the law enforcement agency whether there are any documents in its possession that relate to your question of whether a DNA profile was done.