Definition of Public Record

Public records include all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law to ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency. 1

Exemptions to Public Records

Some exemptions that are included are federal records that the federal government has designated as non-public, personal e-mails sent from or received by city employees using a government computer, some “drafts” or “notes” are also exempt. 2

Who Can Make The Request?

According to the Florida Sunshine Law, any person in Florida can request public documents and a purpose does not have to be stated. 3

Response Timeframe

The law does not specify a specific response time. 4

Information on Fees

The standard fees for duplicates are 15 cents per one-sided page, no more than 20 cents per two-sided page, and $1 per certified copy. The law also provides for allowable additional fees based on the need for extensive information technology support.

Enforcement Mechanisms

Though lauded as a strong public records law, Florida actually has no mechanisms by which to appeal or effectively enforce denials or failures to comply with the law. The Attorney General’s Office offers a voluntary mediation option for the resolution of disputes, as required by statute: “(2) The public records mediation program is created within the Office of the Attorney General. (3) The Office of the Attorney General shall: (a) Employ one or more mediators to mediate disputes involving access to public records. A person may not be employed by the department as a mediator unless that person is a member in good standing of The Florida Bar. (b) Recommend to the Legislature needed legislation governing access to public records. (c) Assist the Department of State in preparing training seminars regarding access to public records.” [Fla. Stat. § 16.60] 5

Attorney Fees

Yes, you can win attorney’s fees.

Do You Want to Make a Public Records Request?

The public records process begins with a public records request. Our guide outlines best practices for drafting well-defined requests for public information.

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Questions? Contact the Goldwater Institute.

If you have any questions regarding this guide or your rights to public information, please contact the Goldwater Institute at info@goldwaterinstitute.org to determine if the Institute can help you access information necessary to hold your government accountable.

Goldwater Institute