Public Records FAQ

What is the Sunshine Law?

Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine law provides a right of access to governmental proceedings at both the state and local levels. It applies to any gathering of two or more members of the same board to discuss some matter which will foreseeably come before that board for action. Almost all state and local public bodies are covered by the open meetings requirements with the exception of the judiciary and the state Legislature which has its own constitutional provision relating to access.

 

What are the requirements of the Sunshine law?

The Sunshine law requires that 1) meetings of boards or commissions must be open to the public; 2) reasonable notice of such meetings must be given; and 3) minutes of the meeting must be taken.

 

What is 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 say 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 a 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 requestor to disclose the reason for the request.

 

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 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 or 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 document?

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 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 Sunshine Law provides for a right of access to inspect and copy existing public records. It does not mandate that the custodian give out information from the records nor does it mandate that an agency create new records to accommodate a request for information.