FL Public Record Law

Chapter 119, F.S.

Every person who has custody of a public record must allow the record to be inspected and examined by any person desiring to, under reasonable conditions. The custodian must furnish a copy of the record upon payment of the cost of duplication or of the fee prescribed by law.


What materials are public records?
"Public records" include: all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material, regardless of physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or in connection with the transaction of business by any agency. The only exceptions are for records specifically made confidential by the Florida Constitution and records exempted by state statute.
What agencies are subject to the Public Records Law?
"Agency" includes any state or local officer, department, division, board, bureau, commission, or other unit of government created or established by law and any other public or private agency, person, or business acting on behalf of a public agency. Records of advisory boards created by governmental entities to provide advice or make recommendations are subject to the Public Records Law.


May an agency refuse a request because the agency believes disclosure could violate privacy rights?
No. Neither the custodian of records nor the person who is the subject of a record can claim a right of privacy as a bar to inspection of a public record without a specific statutory exemption.
May an agency impose a waiting period or establish a specific time period for access to public records?
No. The only delay permitted in producing records is the reasonable amount of time it takes to retrieve the record and delete any exempt portions.
May an agency require that a request for records be made in writing or that the requester furnish background information?
No. A custodian must honor a request for copies of records whether the request is in writing, over the telephone, or in person, as long as the required fees are paid. A requester cannot be required to disclose his/her name, address, or telephone number unless this information is required by law. If a public agency believes it is necessary to document a request for public records, the agency may require the custodian to complete the appropriate document.
Must a person give a reason for his/her request?
No. The Public Records Law does not require a person to show a purpose or "special interest" as a condition of access to public records.
May an agency refuse to allow inspection or copying of public records on the grounds that the request is "overbroad"?
No. A custodian is not authorized to deny a request for access to public records because it is not specific enough. If a request is insufficient to identify the records, the agency has the duty to notify the requester promptly that more information is needed. Unless there is a statutory exemption, a custodian must produce the records requested regardless of the number of documents involved or any inconvenience. The agency is authorized, however, to charge a reasonable fee, in addition to the actual cost of duplication, for the cost of extensive use of technology resources or personnel if required by the nature or volume of the request.
May an agency refuse a request because the record requested contains exempt information?
No. If a record contains information which is exempt from public disclosure, the custodian must delete that which is exempt and provide a copy of the remainder. Also, if so requested, a custodian must state in writing the statutory citation authorizing the deletion.
Is an agency required to answer questions regarding contents of public records?
No. The Public Records Law does not require an employee to answer questions regarding details of the contents of records or to excerpt or interpret them for the public. However, an agency must respond to all requests for any information about copying costs.
Is an agency required to produce records in a particular form?
An agency is not ordinarily required to produce records in a particular form. For example, if the health department keeps a chronological list of dogbites involving rabies, a requester cannot require the department to reorganize the information by geographic area. However, an agency is required to provide a copy of a public record in any medium maintained by the agency.
Is an agency required to comply with a request for records stored in a computer?
Yes. Information stored in a computer is as much a public record as written pages in a book or file folders, and are governed by the same rules as other public records. An agency that maintains a public record in an electronic recordkeeping system must provide a copy of a requested record in the medium requested if the agency maintains the record in that medium.
May an agency refuse a request to inspect or copy the agency's records on the grounds that they are not in its possession?
No. An agency is not authorized to refuse to allow inspection of its public records on the grounds that the documents are in the actual possession of someone else (such as the agency's lawyer). Public records may not be removed from the place where they are ordinarily expected to be kept, except for reasonable business purposes.
May an agency charge a fee for the mere inspection of public records?
No. Public records must be open for public inspection without charge unless otherwise expressly provided by law. But if the volume of records to be inspected is large, requiring the extensive use of agency resources, a special service charge could be applied. (See below). It is irrelevant whether the requested public record is a written document, a videotape, or information stored in a computer. Providing access is a statutory duty of all records custodians. It is not a revenue-generating operation.
What fees may be charged for copies of public records?
Agencies are permitted to provide copies of public records without charge. An agency may, however, charge for copies, as long as the fee does not exceed that established by law. If no other fee is set in the statutes, the custodian may charge up to 15 cents per onesided page for paper copies that are 8 1/2 by 14 inches, or smaller, and no more than 20 cents for twosided duplicated copies. Up to $1.00 per page may be charged for certified copies. For other copies, the charge is limited to the actual cost of duplication. The phrase "actual cost of duplication" is defined to mean "the cost of the materials and supplies used to duplicate the record, but it does not include the labor and overhead cost . . . ." No fees designed to recoup the original cost of developing or producing the records may be charged. An agency may also charge a reasonable fee, based on actual costs incurred, for the extensive use of agency resources.
How long must an agency retain a public record?
Whoever has custody of public records must give them to his/her successor at the expiration of his/her term or, if there is no successor, to the records and information management program of the Division of Library and Information Services of the Department of State. Florida law requires agencies to give the Division a list or schedule of records that are no longer needed in the transaction of business and that do not have enough administrative, legal, fiscal, or historic significance to justify keeping them. The Division has rules, binding all agencies, concerning the disposal of public records.

First Amendment Foundation

A Pocket Guide to Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws: Open Meetings & Public Records
Summarized from The Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual, 2000 Edition (Prepared by the Office of the Attorney General of Florida, and published by the First Amendment Foundation).

The following material provides the reader with only a general idea of what Florida's Open Meetings and Public Records laws are about. It was prepared to give members of the public and government boards and commissions a passing familiarity with their requirements. The actual Open Meetings and Public Records laws are complex. Many complications, nuances, and most of the exceptions are not covered here. Also, information relating to courts, the Legislature, and law enforcement, and information concerning children and medical records, though covered in the Manual, is not included in this summary.