States Deadlines When Responding to FOIA/Open Records Request

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Passed by the Congress in 1966, the Freedom of Information Act allows any person – citizen or not – to request records in possession and control of a Federal agency and its components. The definition of records varies from state to state, but a record may be in the form of books, papers, maps, photographs, machine-readable materials, and information stored electronically such as websites, blog posts, chat logs, email, and SMS messages.

When agencies receive a records request, they must be able to provide access to the public records within a specified time frame. However, because “Freedom of Information” laws also vary per state, it can be quite confusing how long a particular state has to respond to a request. To shed light on these timelines, we have listed in this post the response deadlines of the 50 states should they receive an open records request.

StateOpen Record Request Response DeadlineOpen Record Guide
1.       AlabamaNo Limit
2.       Alaska10 days
3.       Arizona“Prompt”
4.       Arkansas3 days
5.       California10 days
6.       Colorado“Prompt”
7.       Connecticut4 days
8.       Delaware15 days
9.       Florida“Prompt”
10.   Georgia3 days
11.   Hawaii10 days
12.   Idaho3 days
13.   Illinois5 days
14.   Indiana7 days
15.   Iowa20 days
16.   Kansas3 days
17.   Kentucky3 days
18.   Louisiana3 days
19.   Maine5 days
20.   Maryland30 days
21.   Massachusetts10 days
22.   Michigan“Prompt”
23.   Minnesota“Prompt”
24.   Mississippi7 days
25.   Missouri3 days
26.   MontanaNo Limit
27.   Nebraska4 days
28.   Nevada5 days
29.   New Hampshire5 days
30.   New Jersey7 days
31.   New Mexico15 days
32.   New York5 days
33.   North CarolinaNo Limit
34.   North DakotaNo Limit
35.   Ohio“Prompt”
36.   Oklahoma“Prompt”
37.   Oregon“Prompt”
38.   Pennsylvania5 days
39.   Rhode Island10 days
40.   South Carolina15 days
41.   South Dakota15 days
42.   Tennessee7 days
43.   Texas10 days
44.   Utah10 days
45.   Vermont2 days
46.   Virginia5 days
47.   Washington“Prompt”
48.   West Virginia5 days
49.   Wisconsin“Prompt”
50.   WyomingNo Limit

Interesting Takeaways:

  • Vermont has the shortest timeframe, with two days, and Maryland has the longest, with 30.
  • Nearly 25% of all states skew towards three to five days, while a little over a third are seven days or longer.
  • Five states – 10% of the country – merely require a “prompt” response. This means that there’s little to stop public offices from those states from simply ignoring someone’s requests.
  • In contrast, states like New York have a very formal appeals process which specifies that agencies failing to respond to requests within the ‘legally-mandated timeframe’ (five days) are in violation of the law.

To make public records more accessible and to streamline the request process, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a directive which provides guidance and timelines for electronic records retention. It is stated that by the end of 2019, federal agencies must manage all permanent records in an electronic format.

The mandate includes the ability to identify, store, retrieve and retain those records for as long as they are needed so agencies can locate and deliver them promptly, knowing they are trustworthy and complete.

Contact TeleMessage today to learn how our mobile archiving solutions can capture and retain your SMS, MMS and Calls. We can help you meet the NARA/OMB 2019 mandate and respond to open requests for messaging content quickly and efficiently.

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