The Access to Public Records Act of Indiana states that "…it is the public policy of the state that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and employees. Providing persons with the information is an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of public officials and employees, whose duty it is to provide the information. This chapter shall be liberally construed to implement this policy and place the burden of proof for the nondisclosure of a public record on the public agency that would deny access to the record and not on the person seeking to inspect and copy the record." Indiana Code § 5-14-3-1.
General Rule. All records of a public agency, including writings, reports, maps, tape recordings and photographs, are public records and must be disclosed upon request, unless the record falls under an exception under the statute. A public agency must prove that the record falls under such an exception in order to withhold a particular record.
Exceptions. Some public records may not be disclosed under any circumstances:
Other public records may be disclosed at the discretion of the agency
Disclosure. Public records that are disclosable may be inspected and/or copied.
Requests for inspection/copies. Requests may be in person or by telephone (although an agency may require requests to be put into writing); a request may also be in writing. A request must identify with reasonable particularity the record(s) being requested.
No purpose required. With few exceptions, no request may be denied because the person making the request refuses to state the purpose of the request.
Response by agency. The law requires a public agency to respond to requests within a certain time. A public agency must respond to an oral request or a request made in person at the office within 24 hours. A public agency must respond to a written request received by mail or facsimile within 7 days of receipt. A "response" does not mean that the requested records must be produced in that timeframe. The agency must at a minimum acknowledge receipt of the request. The records, if disclosable, must then be produced within a reasonable period of time.
Denials. If no response is given within the prescribed time period, the request is deemed to have been denied. An agency may also expressly deny the request. An in-person or telephone request may be denied orally or in writing. A written request must be denied in writing. Any written denial must provide the specific statutory reason/basis relied upon for nondisclosure and the name and title of the official responsible for the denial.
Records that do not exist. Under the law, an agency is not required to create any record(s) in response to a request. An agency is only required to disclose existing records.
Copy fees. Public agencies may charge fees for copies. No fees may be charged for inspection. For City-County offices, the City-County Council has set the copy fee at $0.04 per page. However, certain records have fees that are set by state or local law, such as accident reports and lien records. For state executive offices, the uniform copying fee is $0.10 per page. For non-standard materials, such as maps, surveys and tapes, an agency may charge the actual cost of duplication, which may not include labor, overhead or search fees.
Partial disclosure. If a public record contains both disclosable and nondisclosable information, the public agency shall separate the material that may be disclosed and make it available for inspection or copying. This may be done by redacting, or marking out, the nondisclosable information.
Lawsuit to compel disclosure. A person denied access to a public record may file a lawsuit in the circuit or superior court of the county in which the denial occurred to compel disclosure. In certain cases, attorneys' fees may be awarded, provided the State Public Access Counselor is contacted first at (317) 233-9435 or 1-800-228-6013.
Advice in making requests. Prior to making a request, it is advisable to first contact the public agency to determine if a request form is required and/or if specific information is required to quickly locate the particular documents. It is also advisable to make any request in writing to document the particular request.
If you have been denied access to public records, and are not sure whether the records are disclosable or nondisclosable, check with your attorney, the Public Access Counselor for the State of Indiana, or the City-County Public Access Counselor.
These points are meant to be a general guide to Indiana's Access to Public Records Act (Indiana Code 5-14-3). Each person's circumstances, however, will be subject to the specific provisions of the Act.