Pursuant to the Chapter 119 of the Florida Statute, all records of the government shall be made available to the public. This means that Florida public records are available for the public. These public records include papers, documents, books, audio, films, photographs and other media formats received or created by any government official in connection with the performance of their duties towards the public. Some public records information is exempted from the public access and will be redacted by the custodian before releasing the records to the person requesting the records. Confidential information is released only to the people who are nominated by the government; nevertheless, an agency is not restricted to disclose the records.
One can make their request by writing or contacting the Office of the Custodian of Public Records. Contacting the office is the fastest way to request the information; however, for those whose requests are a bit complex, they might want to put their request in writing. The Florida public records office has a sample of the letter if one wishes to make their request in writing. Although the law states that the agency is not obligated to answer the request(s) in a certain time, it however requires the office to act on the request within a reasonable time as such processing for the request might take some time.
To request for a copy, the Law states a fee schedule that agencies must follow. It allows government agencies to charge $.15/one sided copy and $.20 for two-sided copies of the record. Certified copies cost about $1/record. The agencies must not charge above the cost of the materials and supplies used in duplicating the copies. There are however, some instances when the law allows the agencies to charge more than the amount mentioned above. One instance is when record/case(s) include court records, crash/homicide, county maps and aerial photographs. Another is when the case would require an extensive research of the records of the Office. Last is when the person requesting the information wants the record copies to be released in a media format such as a disk or tape and the agency maintains the same in the said medium/format.
In certain instances, the Custodian of Public Records would deny a request and would send the reason why the request was denied. In this instance, one can approach the Office of the General to request for a review of the denied request, file a complaint with the state attorney or file a Writ of Mandamus.
For those who are interested to access several government public records, the internet provides several options to make the searches easier. Some counties now make the records online and available to the public. Another is to check a third party site that offers public records free or for a small amount. Either way, checking online can help one to obtain the necessary information that they want as well as have them delivered at one’s convenience.
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