Arizona Public Records Law

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Find your State
Sunshine Laws
Open Records laws
Open Meetings Laws
How to Make Records Requests
Sunshine Legislation
Sorted by State, Year and Topic
Sunshine Litigation
Sorted by State, Year and Topic
Sunshine Nuances
Private Agencies, Public Dollars
Deliberative Process Exemption

The Arizona Public Records Law is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Arizona. The law was first enacted in 1901.

Arizona Revised Statutes 39.101 - 39.221 define the law.

The Arizona Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Statute 38 38.431.01 defines the law.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see Arizona FOIA procedures

Relevant legal cases

See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA and Arizona sunshine lawsuits

Here is a list of lawsuits in Arizona (the cases are listed alphabetically; to order them by year, please click the icon to the right of the "year" heading).

Lawsuit Year
Arizona Newspapers Inc. v. Superior Court 1985
Carlson v. Pima County 1984
City of Prescott v. Town of Chino Valley 1990
Cox Arizona Publications Inc. v. Collins 1993
Lake v. City of Phoenix 2009
Mathews v. Pyle 1952

Proposed transparency legislation


See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2011

We do not have any legislation for Arizona in 2011.


See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2010

We do not have any legislation for Arizona in 2010.

Transparency report card

A 2008 study, BGA - Alper Integrity Index, conducted by the Better Government Association and sponsored by Alper Services, ranked Arizona #11 in the nation (along with Illinois and West Virginia), with an overall percentage of 58.00%.[1]

A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave Arizona 22 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "F" and a ranking of 44 out of the 50 states.[2]

A 2002 study, Freedom of Information in the USA, conducted by IRE and BGA, ranked Arizona's law as the 46th worst in the country, giving it a letter grade of "F."[3]

Features of the law

Sunshine variations Compare States: Sunshine variations
Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.

Declared legal intention

See also: Declared legal intentions across the U.S.

While the law does not explicitly state an intention, it does state, "Public records and other matters in the custody of any officer shall be open to inspection by any person at all times during office hours."[4]

What records are covered?

See also: Defining public records

Public records are defined by statute 41-1350 as "all books, papers, maps, photographs or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, including prints or copies of such items produced or reproduced on film or electronic media pursuant to section 41-1348, made or received by any governmental agency in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business."[5]


Exemptions to the definition of record include the home addresses and telephone numbers of individuals, as well as information concerning archaeological discoveries or places of historic interest if the department feels that it will increase the potential for vandalism.[6][7] Records indicating risk assessment to infrastructure which could decrease security are also protected.[8]

Electronic records

Lake v. City of Phoenix recently established that digital meta-data attached to files stored in any electronic form are considered part of that document and are thus subject to open records requests.

Deliberative process
See also: Deliberative process exemption in Arizona

Arizona law does not current;y permit an exemption for materials which fall under the deliberative process.

What agencies are covered?

See also: Defining public body

The Arizona statutes define "public bodies" subject to public records laws as "the state, any county, city, town, school district, political subdivision or tax-supported district in the state, any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council or committee of the foregoing, and any public organization or agency, supported in whole or in part by monies from the state or any political subdivision of the state, or expending monies provided by the state or any political subdivision of the state."[9]


See also: Legislatures and transparency

The Arizona Public Records Law is ambiguous as to whether the law applies to the legislature. However the broad definition of public body found at Arizona Statute 39-121.01-A-2 would presumably include state legislators.[10]

Privatized governmental agencies

See also: Private agency, public dollars and Private agency, public dollars in Arizona

In Arizona, private entities which receive public funding are subject to the state's open records and open meetings laws.

Public universities

See also: Universities and open records

The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. However, state laws on education provide explicit exemptions for Intellectual property as a trade secret if it is included in unfunded grant applications, proprietary data collected by third parties and proprietary data collected by university faculty and employees. The act also includes exemptions for historical information and materials donated to the university and monetary donor information if the donor requests anonymity.[11] There are also exemptions for unprofessional conduct investigations of teachers.[12]

Who may request records?

See also: List of who can make public record requests by state

Arizona Statute 39-121 states that anyone may request records at any time during office hours.[13]

Must a purpose be stated?

See also: States requiring a statement of purpose

Arizona law requires individuals who are making a FOIA request for commercial purposes to state those purposes. Further, if the department from which the records are requested feels that the purpose is a misuse of public records, they may submit a request to the governor to prevent the release of the records. Failure to claim a commercial purpose can result in litigation and heavy penalization.[14]

How can records be used?

See also: Record use restrictions

Arizona has no restrictions on the use of records outside of statute 39-121, which implies the potential for misuse of public records for commercial purposes.

Time allowed for response

See also: Request response times by state

Arizona state law does not specify the amount of time allotted for filling a public records request.

Fees for records

Copy costs

See also: How much do public records cost?

Arizona statute allows for the charging of reasonable fees for publication, mailing and search expenses. Exceptions to fees include records that are meant to be used in a claim against the federal government concerning "pension, allotment, allowance, compensation, insurance or other benefits"[15]. Also, victims of criminal offenses or family members of incapacitated or deceased victims can request one copy of the police record for free.[16]

Search fees

See also: Sunshine laws and search fees

The Arizona law allows agencies to charge reasonable fees to cover search expenses, but does not elaborate on what those fees may be.[15]

Role of the Attorney General

See also: Role of the Attorney General

There is currently no provision within the state open records law that empowers the State Department of Law to enforce the right of the public to access governmental records.

Open meetings

The Open Meetings Act states, "All meetings of any public body shall be public meetings and all persons so desiring shall be permitted to attend and listen to the deliberations and proceedings. All legal action of public bodies shall occur during a public meeting."[17]

See also

External links