Statutory Citation: Iowa Code §22.1 et seq.

Definition of Public Record

The Iowa Open Records Law is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels. The law includes all records of government agencies except where the documents have been deemed confidential. 1

Exemptions to Public Records

Personal information on accepted students, current students, and past students, Medical records, Trade Secrets, Records of attorneys who represent the state, Reports that result in unfair competition, Appraisal information for public land purchases Criminal files, Military confidential records, Personal information in records of employees and elected officials of public agencies, Library records, Information on the donors of charitable contributions, Corrections department information that would jeopardize security, Communications made to the government but not required by statute, Examinations, Archaeological and historical ecologically sensitive material locations and information, Marketing and advertising budgets and strategies for non-profits, Information maintained by mediators employed to solve the disputes with government agencies. 2

Who Can Make The Request?


Response Timeframe

10-20 days. 3

Information on Fees

Fee practices in Iowa tend to be vague. Reproduction fees must be charged at a “reasonable” amount, and each agency is in charge with coming up with its own procedures. Furthermore, search fees do not exist in Iowa, instead using supervisory fees, again at reasonable cost. 4

Enforcement Mechanisms

Language making denying or refusing a request knowingly a misdemeanor was repealed in 2011. Currently if an agency or other custodian of records is found by judicial review to be guilty of improperly denying a request they can expect to be forced to release the denied documents, and can expect a fine of not more than $500 and not less than $100. If they knowingly denied the request improperly then a maximum fine of $2,500 or a minimum of $1,000 can be levied. Furthermore, the agency or custodian found to be guilty must also pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees. If an agency employee is found to have violated the chapter previously, then an order for removal of office or post will be given. The laws are enforced through the courts as well as the Iowa Public Information Board. 5

Attorney Fees

Yes, if one is able to prevail in court then attorney’s fees can be rewarded. 6

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 to determine if the Institute can help you access information necessary to hold your government accountable.

Goldwater Institute