Mr. Joseph P. Dugdale General Counsel Department of Crime Control & Public Safety 4702 Mail Service Center Raleigh NC 27699-4702
Re: Advisory Opinion; Traffic Law Enforcement Statistics; Public Records; G.S. § 114-10(2a)
Dear Mr. Dugdale:
By letters dated May 9, 2000 and June 21, 2000, you requested, on behalf of the Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety, the opinion of this office concerning whether the identity of a state law enforcement officer making a traffic stop and the location of the traffic stop is a public record. These requests for opinions have been held by this office pending action by the General Assembly on HB 1840.
The Legislature recently enacted HB 1840 and it was signed into law by the Governor on June 30, 2000. See CH. SL 00.0067. Section 17.2(a) amends G.S. § 114-10(2a) to provide that the identity of a state law enforcement officer making a traffic stop and the location of the stop must now be collected and maintained. It further provides that “[t]he identity of the law enforcement officer making the stop . . . may be accomplished by assigning anonymous identification numbers to each officer” and that “[t]he correlation between the identification numbers and the names of the officer shall not be a public record and shall not be disclosed by the agency except when required by order of a court.”
This new legislation specifically resolves your first question. The identity of the officer is not a public record. The location of the stop, however, is part of the public record. The obvious intent of the Legislature is to keep the identity of officers making traffic stops confidential. Where the language of a statute is clear and unambiguous, there is no room for statutory construction and the statute must be given its plain meaning. Utilities Comm. v. Edmisten, Atty. General, 291 N.C. 451, 232 S.E.2d 184 (1977).
In your letter of June 21, 2000, you also ask for our guidance in resolving differences between state and federal law with respect to access to the identity of officers making traffic stops. Any difference that heretofore existed between state and federal law with respect to the confidentiality of the identity of law enforcement officers making traffic stops was eliminated by the adoption of HB 1840. State law and federal law, as they relate to this information, are now the same. Compare G.S. § 114-10(2a) as amended and 42 USC § 3789g (prohibiting release by federal grantees of research data “identifiable to any specific private person.”)
We hope that this opinion has provided you the guidance you need. If you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
James J. Coman Senior Deputy Attorney General
Isaac T. Avery, III Special Deputy Attorney General