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Factual Research: Florida Public Records Law

How to Make a Public Records Request

The Florida Public Records Law states that any person can inspect and copy public records. An individual does not need to state a purpose or special interest to obtain access to a record and does not need to present identification.

 

Steps to take when making a record request:

 

1. Identify the agency holding the record and the person within that agency who is the records custodian.

 

2. Citizens can call or write the agency for this information.

 

3. When writing your request, make it as specific as possible. Include the following:

 

  • Subject Matter
  • Location
  • Date
  • Agency in charge
  • Name or identification of the file

 

4. Although a verbal request is sufficient, a written request is more effective.

 

5. Keep copies of correspondences.

 

6. When a portion of the material requested is exempt, a records custodian must provide the non-exempt material. Once the identifying information is removed, the report must be released.

7. Be aware that agencies may charge only the cost of actual duplication of the record if requesting a copy. Higher fees may be charged for certain records, especially those requests that require extensive assistance.

What is a Public Record?

 

All government records, regardless of whether they are in final form, are open for public inspection unless the Legislature has exempted them from disclosure.

 

Section 119.011(12), Florida Statutes, defines public record as:  

 "all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material, regardless of the physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency."

What the Agency provides...

  • Agencies must provide a copy of public records in the medium requested if the agency maintains the record in that medium.
  •  Agencies are not required to create a new record to meet a requester's particular needs.
  • Agencies are responsible for ensuring access to records electronically maintained and should set up databases to comply with the Public Records Law

Remedies?

If you reasonably believe there has been a violation, you can seek an order from the circuit court to force disclosure. 

Penalties for the agency includes: fines, injunctive relief and, in extreme cases, incarceration of offenders

┬×If the court finds there was a violation, you are entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees from the agency. However, if the court finds that the suit was filed in bad faith or on frivolous grounds, the agency may recover reasonable attorney’s fees from you.

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