Counties Support Witness Protection from PIA Disclosures

MACo Policy Associate Alex Butler testified to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 13, 2020 to support SB 535 – Public Information Act – Denial of Part of a Public Record – Victims and Witnesses. This bill provides reasonable protections against the release of certain personally identifying information relating to witnesses under the Maryland Public Information Act (PIA) for 9-1-1 communication records.

From the MACo Testimony:

SB 535 would redefine the definition of “Contrary to the public interest” as it applies to discretionary denials under PIA to include situations where custodians reasonably believe that disclosing the requested record would reveal the identity of a witness. Under the bill, “witness” means a witness of specified crimes that include child abuse, homicide, and certain sexual crimes. Current law already provides that custodians have the authority to deny records that would expose a victim, and this bill would extend that reasonable protection to witnesses.

SB 535 is narrowly crafted to protect sensitive information of witnesses to serious, specified crimes, serving to protect these individuals from potential harm that could result from having their identity made public.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2020 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.