Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Documents

Reference Number: 

In addition to the large group of records made strictly confidential by state laws, there is another class of records that may be made confidential by a 1999 law. Chapter 344 of the public acts of 1999 amends T.C.A. § 10-7-504 to allow persons who have obtained a “valid protection document” to request certain information that could be used to locate them be kept confidential. Protection documents are defined by the act and include such things as orders of protection and affidavits of directors of a rape crisis center or domestic violence shelter. If the individual desiring confidentiality presents one of these documents to the records custodian for the governmental entity and requests confidentiality, the custodian of the records may choose to comply  with the request or reject it. If the request is rejected, the custodian must state the reason for denying the request. If the request is granted, the records custodian must place a copy of the protection document in a separate confidential file with any other similar requests, indexed alphabetically by the names of the persons requesting confidentiality. From that point on until the custodian is notified otherwise, any time someone requests to see records of the office, the records custodian must consult the file and ensure that any identifying information about anyone covered by a protection document filed with the office is kept confidential before allowing any record to be open for public inspection. “Identifying information” includes any record of  the home and work addresses, telephone numbers, social security number and “any other information” regarding the person that could reasonably be used to locate an individual. That information must be redacted from the records of the office before anyone can be allowed to inspect the records of the office. Since it is difficult to ascertain what information could possibly be used to locate an individual, you are strongly cautioned against complying with such requests. Unless you are certain your office can redact all identifying information regarding an individual from all files of your office you should probably reject such requests for confidentiality, citing the administrative difficulty in redacting the records. It is not mandatory for your office to comply with these requests.  However, if you do comply and then fail to protect all such information, you may create liability for your office.