Confidentiality of Criminal Investigation Case Law In California
Evidence gathered by police as part of an ongoing criminal investigation is by its nature confidential. This notion finds expression in both case and statutory law.
For example, in People v. Otte (1989) 214 Cal. App. 3d 1522 263 Cal. Rptr. 393, the court made the following observation concerning the confidentiality of criminal investigative files in the course of interpreting the section 1041 privilege as to confidential informants:
"Communications are made to an officer in official confidence when the investigation is of such a type that disclosure of the investigation would cause the public interest to suffer.
An apt illustration of this situation is the investigation of a crime by police officers.
It is not only where a witness requests that his statement be kept in confidence, but in all cases of crime investigation that the record and reports are privileged.' ( Jessup v. Superior Court (1957) 151 Cal. App. 2d 102, 108 311 P.2d 177.)" ( People v. Otte, supra, 214 Cal. App. 3d at p. 1532; see also Rivero v. Superior Court (1997) 54 Cal. App. 4th 1048, 1058-1059 63 Cal. Rptr. 2d 213 confidentiality of criminal investigations must be maintained so that potential witnesses come forward; People v. Wilkins (1955) 135 Cal. App. 2d 371, 377 287 P.2d 555; People v. Pearson (1952) 111 Cal. App. 2d 9, 18, 24 244 P.2d 35.)
The Information Practices Act of 1977 ( Civ. Code, 1798 et seq.) protects information compiled by law enforcement agencies for the purpose of investigating criminal activities, including reports of informants and investigators. ( Civ. Code, 1798.40, 1798.41.)
Similarly, Penal Code section 11107, which states the obligation of each sheriff or police chief to report crime data to the Department of Justice, specifically recognizes the confidential nature of criminal investigations.
That statute includes the proviso that "the Attorney General may also require that the report shall indicate whether or not the submitting agency considers the information to be confidential because it was compiled for the purpose of a criminal investigation of suspected criminal activities." ( Pen. Code, 11107.)