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Thread: FOIA Fees

  1. #1
    Regular Member stealthyeliminator's Avatar
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    FOIA Fees

    For those that have done FOIA requests, how often are you charged fees for the documents, copies, etc. and how much are the fees? I'm guessing it varies from state to state but I'd like to see how it compares to what I was charged.

    Also, if you requested records and they were modified when you received them, but you didn't have the money to hire an attorney, what could you do, other than just be mad about it? To be more specific, if you requested audio recordings and parts of the audio were missing, meaning the file appeared to actually be split into two files with a portion of the audio missing between where the first file left off and the second file picked up.
    Last edited by stealthyeliminator; 09-10-2014 at 01:32 PM.
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    I personally hardly ever ASK for copies .. I just seek access to view the records. So, I don't pay many fees in my state as just viewing paper records is free. Almost 90% provide copies..of the 10% that do not, I just scan them with a hand scanner (like this http://www.amazon.com/VuPoint-Magic-.../dp/B004SGF8A4) in my state they can charge 20 bucks to scan although I never had anyone ask for the 20 bucks and I used to use a all-in-one printer for scanning until the courts ruled that it has to be a hand scanner.

    For electronic records .. I usually, again, just seek to inspect. I usually get these in an electronic format. Some agencies will allow me to simply hand them a flash drive and they'll copy the records and others will send DVDs or other media. Most of the times, at no charge.

    As to fees...some states have the cost of copies to be the actual cost of paper and ink w/no charge for finding the records.
    Other states allow fees for the records to be found.

    Other states have a set fee for copies or a maximum amt per page.

    With electronic records that require making a program to extract out from a database, they can charge for the production of a program (can be high) upon the first request (one the program is made subsequent requests will not be charged this programming fee) in my state.

    For my state, the max. amt for copies is 50 cents/page (could be a 3 by 5 foot map-still 50 cents) and it should be the costs of actually making copies (some agencies charge 10 cents/pg .. others up to 50 cents/pg).

    As with audio recordings, I would seek to inspect (hear) the records instead of asking for copies .. now agencies can just provide you with a copy if they like in many states..other states mandate your access to inspect/hear the record on their system. I would ask to inspect the original and see what they say.

    I don't know what you mean by modify....but I sometimes include a boilerplate statement about what a record is and what I am seeking (see attachment-feel free to use it). I have actually had agencies say that a modified doc was sufficient, until I point to the boilerplate verbiage showing that any notes or modifications make it a different record and all versions are being sought. Then they whine and cry but end up coughing up the slightly different records.


    In Texas

    http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.u...htm/GV.552.htm

    SUBCHAPTER F. CHARGES FOR PROVIDING COPIES OF PUBLIC INFORMATION

    Sec. 552.261. CHARGE FOR PROVIDING COPIES OF PUBLIC INFORMATION. (a) The charge for providing a copy of public information shall be an amount that reasonably includes all costs related to reproducing the public information, including costs of materials, labor, and overhead. If a request is for 50 or fewer pages of paper records, the charge for providing the copy of the public information may not include costs of materials, labor, or overhead, but shall be limited to the charge for each page of the paper record that is photocopied, unless the pages to be photocopied are located in:

    (1) two or more separate buildings that are not physically connected with each other; or

    (2) a remote storage facility.

    (b) If the charge for providing a copy of public information includes costs of labor, the requestor may require the governmental body's officer for public information or the officer's agent to provide the requestor with a written statement as to the amount of time that was required to produce and provide the copy. The statement must be signed by the officer for public information or the officer's agent and the officer's or the agent's name must be typed or legibly printed below the signature. A charge may not be imposed for providing the written statement to the requestor.

    (c) For purposes of Subsection (a), a connection of two buildings by a covered or open sidewalk, an elevated or underground passageway, or a similar facility is insufficient to cause the buildings to be considered separate buildings.

    (d) Charges for providing a copy of public information are considered to accrue at the time the governmental body advises the requestor that the copy is available on payment of the applicable charges.....


    Looks like if you think you got overcharged .. you can file a complaint with your Attny. Gen. office (I don't think many overcharges are found though..one big happy fleet!)

    Under 552.3215 it looks like you can file an informal complaint with your DA or other body and they will look it over and make a decision...or you can file a mandamus action in court. So I think that you can follow up w/o the need for a lawyer (not that one is required anyway).

    I see some good things and bad things in the Texas FOI laws.

    Relief under 552.3215 appears to be a free avenue. From what I can understand from a quick read. I could be wrong.

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    Regular Member stealthyeliminator's Avatar
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    Thank you for the very thorough and helpful reply. I believe I will be filing a complaint with the AG, and see how that goes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stealthyeliminator View Post
    Thank you for the very thorough and helpful reply. I believe I will be filing a complaint with the AG, and see how that goes.
    ...(e) A complainant may file a complaint alleging a violation of this chapter. The complaint must be filed with the district or county attorney of the county in which the governmental body is located unless the governmental body is the district or county attorney. If the governmental body extends into more than one county, the complaint must be filed with the district or county attorney of the county in which the administrative offices of the governmental body are located. If the governmental body is a state agency, the complaint may be filed with the Travis County district attorney. If the governmental body is the district or county attorney, the complaint must be filed with the attorney general. To be valid, a complaint must:

    ...sec 552.3215 ^^

    was your request to the district or county attny?

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    Regular Member stealthyeliminator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidmcbeth View Post
    ...(e) A complainant may file a complaint alleging a violation of this chapter. The complaint must be filed with the district or county attorney of the county in which the governmental body is located unless the governmental body is the district or county attorney. If the governmental body extends into more than one county, the complaint must be filed with the district or county attorney of the county in which the administrative offices of the governmental body are located. If the governmental body is a state agency, the complaint may be filed with the Travis County district attorney. If the governmental body is the district or county attorney, the complaint must be filed with the attorney general. To be valid, a complaint must:

    ...sec 552.3215 ^^

    was your request to the district or county attny?
    No, so I guess I need to file the complaint with the district or county attorney. I'm beginning to see where this is going... nowhere.

    I probably need to start with reading that whole section. I skimmed through it once before but didn't see anything specifically regulating fees imposed for electronic type records. On second pass I think I have a legitimate complaint, but I need to make sure the form is correct and it's filed properly.
    Last edited by stealthyeliminator; 09-10-2014 at 09:25 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stealthyeliminator View Post
    No, so I guess I need to file the complaint with the district or county attorney. I'm beginning to see where this is going... nowhere.
    Hey, its free ! The DA is an elected official anyways ... can always bring it up during his election.

    With the audio, did they tell you if it was in fact modified and did they provide an exemption cite?

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    Regular Member stealthyeliminator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidmcbeth View Post
    Hey, its free ! The DA is an elected official anyways ... can always bring it up during his election.

    With the audio, did they tell you if it was in fact modified and did they provide an exemption cite?
    They did not actually admit it was modified, they only replied that they're required by law to remove social security numbers, DL numbers and VIN numbers. I can be more than reasonably certain that the missing audio does not contain any.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stealthyeliminator View Post
    They did not actually admit it was modified, they only replied that they're required by law to remove social security numbers, DL numbers and VIN numbers. I can be more than reasonably certain that the missing audio does not contain any.
    They can remove that information. And I think that they are actually required to remove, its an exception not an exemption. Federal law issue.

    What did they charge you?
    Last edited by davidmcbeth; 09-10-2014 at 11:07 PM.

  9. #9
    Regular Member stealthyeliminator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidmcbeth View Post
    They can remove that information. And I think that they are actually required to remove, its an exception not an exemption. Federal law issue.

    What did they charge you?
    I'm as certain as I can be without listening to the unmodified file that they removed a phone number. They charged me $75 for 911 calls of a certain subject within certain time frames. They seemed to be somewhat dramatic about the imposition.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stealthyeliminator View Post
    I'm as certain as I can be without listening to the unmodified file that they removed a phone number. They charged me $75 for 911 calls of a certain subject within certain time frames. They seemed to be somewhat dramatic about the imposition.
    Sometimes they are drama queens .. acting like they are doing you a big favor

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