Statutory Citation: Montana Code 2-6-101 et seq.

Definition of Public Record

The original definition of records includes all writings of government bodies including electronic mail. However, it has been expanded to include all items in “electronic format or other non-print media, including but not limited to videotapes, photographs, microfilm, film, or computer disk.” 1

Exemptions to Public Records

Exempt: Records may be closed if the right to individual privacy clearly exceeds the public’s right to know. However, the Montana Supreme Court has upheld challenges to statutes or executive branch decisions that closed records, ruling that the constitutional public right to know outweighed the individual privacy interest. 2

Who Can Make The Request?

The Montana Public Records Act stats that citizens are entitled to public records in the state, however, the Montana Constitution states that no person may be denied such records. The Constitution trumps statute, so anyone may request public documents in Montana. 3

Response Timeframe

No time limits are specified. 4

Information on Fees

An executive order by the Office of the Governor in 1996 made 10 cents a page the statewide copying charge. The first half hour of search time is free, after that there is an $8.50 an hour charge. 5

Enforcement Mechanisms

There are no penalties for agencies in violation of the Montana FOIA. (see) There is no specific provision for enforcement under the act, and most provisions are enforced through citizen-initiated lawsuits. 6

Attorney Fees

Yes, you can win them. 7

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