The availability and ease of the process of requesting public records varies from state to state. In general, however, those looking for access in a large state are at a bit of a disadvantage, simply because record keeping is often left up to the individual counties, and large states have a lot of them; this can cause records to be highly fragmented and difficult to chase down. While Florida is a large state indeed, public records requests are generally fairly straightforward with most agencies. You can read the statutes that cover public records at the Florida Legislature. In this article, you’ll learn about the major types of public records which can be requested by a citizen. Additionally, you’ll learn the process for submitting a public records request to the appropriate body.
Types of Available Records
Florida law stipulates that all county, state, or municipal (city) government units and departments must disclose all records to the public on request. In addition to the body itself, any public or private contractors which it is employing to carry out its work are also subject to public records requests.
This access to any government-affiliated records is not limited by format; it includes online and offline maps, recordings, correspondence, software, studies, and any other media relevant to the workings of a government body or its contractors. Salary and pay reports of all public officials, including law enforcement and emergency services agencies, are also fair game.
There are some exceptions to when these bodies must comply with public records requests, some of which are associated with criminal investigations which are ongoing, or cases in which threat to the public (now cited as threat of ‘terrorism’) can be increased by the release of documents. Furthermore, businesses and contractors who may fall under public record law due to affiliation with the state can ask that records not be revealed if they constitute a trade secret within their industry.
Other records available to the public include criminal records and minutes of public meetings are also available.
How to Submit a Request
Requests can be submitted in a number of formats or in person and while the internet has made online forms more common, the most reliable route often remains a written request by mail.
Simply address your letter to the appropriate agency or office to which your requested information will be most relevant. In your correspondence, be sure to include:
- A clear statement that you would like to request records as is your right under Florida law. You should include reference to the Florida Public Records Act.
- A detailed descriptions of all of the records you are asking for. Be specific and include exact dates and any other parameters that will help the agency gather your information most quickly.
- Your contact details so that the agency can get you your documents and any information if they run into problems or need clarification.
And that’s it! Upon completion, you may be billed depending on the specific policy of the office you’re working with. If a predetermined price is not already outlined in current law, the office may charge you no more than 15 cents per page, or 20 cents if the prints are double sided.