Definition of Public Record

Public records are defined by the Code of Maryland as documents in any form, made or received by a public body which pertain to government business. 1

Exemptions to Public Records

Exempt: Information that invades individual privacy; trade secrets; public policy development memos; and investigative materials. 2

Who Can Make The Request?


Response Timeframe

30 days. 3

Information on Fees

An official custodian is permitted to charge an applicant a reasonable fee to search for, prepare and reproduce a public record in a customized format. § 4-206(b)(1)(i). For records produced in standard format, an official custodian may charge a reasonable fee for the actual costs of the search, preparation, and production.  § 4-206(b)(1)(ii).  An official custodian may not, however, charge a fee for the first two hours spent searching for a public record and preparing it for inspection. § 4-206(c). A reproduction fee may not be set by the custodian if the fee is provided for by another law. § 4-206(d)(1). The custodian may charge for the cost of providing facilities for reproduction if the custodian does not have such facilities. § 4-206(d)(2). 4

Enforcement Mechanisms

Section 4-362(a) authorizes any person or governmental unit that has been denied inspection of a public record to file a complaint in the circuit court for the county where the complainant resides or has a principal place of business, or where the public record is located. The circuit court may enjoin the State, a political subdivision, or a unit, an official, or an employee of the State or a political subdivision from withholding the public record or a copy, printout or photograph of the record; order the production of the withheld record or copy, printout or photograph, and award actual damages including attorneys’ fees to the complainant if the Court finds that the complainant substantially prevailed in the suit seeking enforcement of the Act. § 4-362(c), (f); but see ACLU v. Leopold, 223 Md. App. 97, 123 (2015) (“actual damages” under the statute does not include emotional damages). 5

Attorney Fees

Yes, in addition to “statutory damages” of up to $1,000 for the whole case. 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