What is the Public Records Act?

Florida’s Public Records Law, Ch. 119, F.S., provides a right of access to the records of state and local governments as well as private entities acting on their behalf. In the absence of a statutory exemption, this right of access applies to all materials made or received by an agency, in connection with the transaction of official business which are used to perpetuate, communicate or formalize knowledge.

What are the requirements of the Public Records Act?

The Florida Public Records Act does not require staff of a public agency to explain records or respond to questions, nor to create records which do not already exist. Rather, it only requires that a person who requests to inspect and/or copy existing, non-exempt records be allowed to do so within a reasonable time after the request.

What is considered a public record?

All materials made or received by an agency in connection with official business which are used to perpetuate, communicate or formalize knowledge are public records. Not limited to paper and PC files, public records also include tapes, photos, films and sound recordings that are subject to inspection (unless a statutory exemption exists).

Can I request public documents over the telephone, and do I have to tell them why I want them?

Nothing in the public records law requires that a request for public records be in writing or in person, although individuals may wish to make their request in writing to ensure they have an accurate record of what they requested.

Unless otherwise exempted, a custodian of public records must honor an applicant's request for records, whether it is made in person, over the telephone, or in writing, provided the required fees are paid. In addition, nothing in the law requires the applicant to disclose the reason for the request or their identity.

How much can an agency charge for public documents?

The law provides that the custodian shall furnish a copy of public records upon payment of the fee prescribed by law. If no fee is prescribed, an agency is normally allowed to charge up to 15 cents per one-sided copy and 20 cents per double-sided copy for copies that are 14" x 8 1/2" or less. A charge of up to $1 per copy may be assessed for a certified copy of a public record.

If the nature and volume of the records to be copied requires extensive use of information technology resources or extensive clerical/supervisory assistance, or both, the agency may charge a reasonable service charge based on the actual cost incurred.

When does a document sent to a public agency become a public record?

As soon as a document is received by a public agency it becomes a public record, unless there is a legislatively created exemption which makes it exempt/confidential and not subject to disclosure.

Is an agency required to give out information from public records or produce public records in a particular form as requested by an individual?

The Florida Public Records Act does not require an agency to reformat its records or provide them in a format demanded by the requestor. An agency is only required to provide the record in the standard format routinely maintained by the agency. Nor does it require the agency to create new records in response to a request.