What You Need to Know About Your FOIA Public Records Request

What You Need to Know About Your FOIA Public Records Request

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows you to request public records from the federal government. Each state also allows for a public record search, though these rules are not the same as the federal process. It’s important to be aware that there’s a set of rules governing your request. You should also be mindful of the laws involved in your particular request.

How Do You Request Public Records at the State Level?

Each state has its own specifications on how to make a request. In most cases, it’s as simple as writing a letter asking for the records. Here’s the process roughly:

  • Make the request. Check what’s acceptable in your state. In most cases, the request will be a simple letter, either hard copy or submitted online.
  • What if they deny your request? In some cases, the agency might have made a mistake. Review the particular laws governing your request. If you feel the request was valid, submit an appeal.
  • Is there information you’re not allowed to request? Yes. There are rules governing public records. If your request contains one of the exempted types of records, you will likely be denied. Exemptions fall under several categories, including security issues for state and federal agencies and privacy issues for citizens.
  • What are the fees? There are fees associated with receiving public records. Usually, these are relatively minimal and might include search and duplication fees. If your search is related to the media or research, you may only need to pay the duplication fees.

The Challenges Agencies Face with Record Requests Access to public records is an essential aspect of a free society. While the process is made to be simple, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy. Today, the public as a whole is more aware of their rights, which means that government agencies have to fulfill a lot of records requests in a timely manner. However, responding to requests in an efficient way can be a perpetual challenge for government agencies of all sizes including public institutions such as hospitals and universities. Having to process paper requests and generate replies manually can be extremely time-consuming, which may lead to lags in response time.

Simplify and Optimize Your Search and Records with OnBase FOIA Software Solutions

OnBase FOIA software solutions simplify and optimize the collection of FOIA requests with its suite of tools designed to streamline the management of response documents and communications. Process and management solutions from OnBase allow you to gain access to established entries, acknowledgment letters, invoices, executive reviews and responses the instant they are needed from any location. This seamless integration efficiently takes users from the commencement of a request to its completion with tools that help organize documentation throughout the process.

Key benefits of using FOIA software include:

  • OnBase walks you through the request, whether paper or online. This way, you’ll never miss pertinent information or submit an incomplete request.
  • Finding the records you need is half of the battle. With OnBase user-friendly search options, you’ll find tools to help you complete a more comprehensive search with ease.
  • OnBase provides tools to notify you about the process. This includes notification of upcoming deadlines and reports on your current requests.
  • Using document composition technology, OnBase allows you to create automated, cost-effective, customized correspondence.
  • OnBase ensures that the integrity of confidential information will comply with industry-standard mandates.

Public records are a fundamental right. OnBase lets you streamline the process so that your request takes less time and is more productive. 

Sources:

http://www.foiadvocates.com/records.html

https://www.foia.gov/how-to.html

https://www.rcfp.org/digital-journalists-legal-guide/open-records-meetings-foia

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