Definition of Public Record

Public records includes all documents, no matter their physical form, that are “prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business.” 1

Exemptions to Public Records

Exempt in records: Some criminal investigations; some police reports; tax returns; medical records; personnel matters; real estate; attorney client privilege exemptions; and working papers. 2

Who Can Make The Request?

Any citizen of Virginia may request public records, however Virginia does limit the right of incarcerated felons to request any records whatsoever. 3

Response Timeframe

5 business days. 4

Information on Fees

An agency may charge reasonable fees not to exceed the actual cost of access, search, and duplication. 5

Enforcement Mechanisms

You can sue. “A. Any person, including the attorney for the Commonwealth acting in his official or individual capacity, denied the rights and privileges conferred by this chapter may proceed to enforce such rights and privileges by filing a petition for mandamus or injunction, supported by an affidavit showing good cause.” Code of Virginia, Title 2.2. Administration of Government, Chapter 37 – Virginia Freedom of Information Act, §2.2-3713 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