WHAT IS A PUBLIC RECORD?
A "Public Record" is defined in the Florida Statutes [Ch. 199.011(1)] as:
all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material, regardless of the physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency.
What this means is that a "Public record" is any material made or received by an agency in connection with official agency business. This can include things like paper documents to e-mail.
ARE ALL PUBLIC RECORDS OPEN TO PUBLIC INSPECTION?
No. There are certain types of public records that are exempt from public inspection. These are defined in the Florida Statutes [Ch. 119.071] these can include things such as annuity contracts, complaints, performance evaluations, medical information, and social security numbers.
WHO CAN REQUEST PUBLIC RECORDS?
Florida State Law requires that all public records (unless exempt) be open for personal inspection by anyone [Ch. 119.01(1), F.S.]. A person seeking to inspect a public record does not have to have a specific reason or purpose in making the request and are not required to state a reason either.
WHO HAS TO PROVIDE ACCESS TO PUBLIC RECORDS?
Florida State Law [Ch. 119.011(2), F.S.] requires that any state, county, district, authority, department, board, bureau, commission or other separate units of government created or established by or any other public or private agency, person, partnership, corporation, or business entity acting on behalf of any public agency provide access to its public records.
WHAT LIMITATIONS OR CONDITIONS MAY AN AGENCY IMPOSE ON THE PUBLIC'S RIGHT TO INSPECT OR COPY PUBLIC RECORDS?
An agency cannot deny a public record request because the request is too broad or not specific enough, nor can they require that the request is made in writing. A person requesting access to public records does not have to provide their name, address or any other identifying information.
Florida Public Records Law requires agencies to provide access to records not provide information. What this means is that an agency is required by law to provide you access to its public records but does not have to explain what the records mean or interpret the records for you.
An agency is not required to provide records in a format that it is not presently being used by the agency. For example, an agency is not required to produce a document on a floppy disc if they are no longer using floppies in their organization and do not have a means of creating one.
When a public record contains both non-exempt and exempt information the agency is required by State Law to redact (remove) the information which is exempt from public access.
CAN I BE CHARGED FOR REQUESTING ACCESS TO PUBLIC RECORDS?
Yes. Any agency has the right to charge "Copying" or "Extensive Use" fees for a Public Records request. These charges and guidelines are set in the Florida Statutes [Ch. 119.07(1) and Ch. 199.07(1)(b)]. "Extensive Use" allows an agency to impose a special service charge when the nature or volume of the public records request requires the extensive use of information technology resources or clerical or supervisory assistance or both. The term "Extensive Use" is not defined in the Florida Statutes and it is left up to each agency to determine what that definition is.
An agency, in general, cannot charge for mere inspection of public records. However, an agency does have the right to have a supervisor present while the records are being inspected to ensure that no records are damaged. And if that supervision requires extensive use of its resources then an agency may charge an "Extensive Use" fee for the supervisor's time or resources.