Georgia FOIA procedures
Each state varies slightly in the procedures used to gain access to public documents. This article serves to describe specifically the steps used in Georgia. To read the history and details of Georgia’s sunshine laws please see the Georgia Open Records Act.
How to request public records in Georgia
The act is unclear as to who should receive records requests. The act does indicate that requests should be directed towards records custodians but does not indicate how public agencies should designate custodians or even if they are required to have a specific records custodian.
Purpose and use
Requestors generally don't have to state a purpose nor are there any restrictions placed on the use of records. However, in 1999, the state legislature said that access to Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident reports should be confined to people named in the reports or for those who, as defined by statute, needed the reports.
- In Northside Realty Association v. Community Relations Commission in 1978, a court ruled that a "...citizen of Georgia seeking an opportunity to copy and inspect a public record need not show any special or personal interest therein."
- In Parker v. Lee in 1989, a court said, there is "...no reason to distinguish [a death row inmate's] (or any other individual citizen's) right of access from news organizations' right of access."
In 1993, the state legislature repealed a provision in the law that restricted access to records based on whether they were sought for commercial purposes.
Who may request public records?
Public records are open to "any citizen of this state," according to O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(b). People who are employees of nonresident corporations (corporations that are incorporated in a state other than Georgia) can exercise their rights under GORA even if he or she is doing so to share the information with his employer.
In 1993, the Georgia Attorney General wrote an opinion saying that records should be open to non-residents of the state as well as residents. Recent federal court rulings have supported this opinion and overturned these laws and opened records to citizens of every state. For more information please see Lee v. Minner.
- See also: How much do public records cost?
Fees are permitted under Georgia law and can include the cost of publication and duplication as well as administrative costs involved in the search.
- See also: Request response times by state
Government agencies must either comply with or deny a written request for public records within three working days after receiving it.
Specifically, the law says that the custodian of the requested records "shall have a reasonable amount of time to determine whether or not the record or records requested are subject to access under this article and to permit inspection and copying. In no event shall this time exceed three business days."
If the custodian denies the request, the custodian must issue the denial within three days.
- Georgia Code, search for 50-18-70 (b).
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