Can a Public Agency Charge for Records?
Whether a public agency can charge for records provided in response to an OPRA request depends on the circumstances. There are important guidelines to remember.
- Electronic copies of records should ordinarily be free of charge, so most requestors seek them in that format. When making your request, simply ask that the records be emailed to you.
- If a requestor wants a hard copy of a record, the public agency may charge 5 cents per letterhead size copy and 7 cents per legal paper size copy. A public agency may not charge more unless they can prove that their “actual costs” are higher.
- If the requestor wants the government record in a format not already maintained by the public agency, the public must convert the record to that format. If the conversion requires a substantial amount of manipulation or programming by IT, the public agency could charge a “special service charge.” This special service charge also must be the “actual cost” to the agency, i.e. the cost of the labor needed to perform the conversion. It is rare that this service charge applies and the public agency must first contact you to advise what the charge will be and give you the opportunity to object.
- In all instances, the public agency may not charge more than the “actual cost” of producing the record. So, for example, if you request an audio tape of a public meeting, the public agency can only charge you the cost of the tape. The public agency cannot make a profit off of your request.
- Finally, victims of crime can request copies of the police reports at no cost.