Public Information Act


Urgent Information Related to COVID-19

 As you may already be aware, Governor Larry Hogan has mandated that all non-essential personnel are required to telework.  As such, the researching, pulling and preparing of some records responsive to PIA requests will be delayed due to limited access to State offices.

Know that we will continue to do our best to produce records and be responsive to PIA requests with the resources we have available. We ask for your patience during this state of emergency.

Click Here for a Summary of New PIA Provisions Effective October 1, 2015

The Maryland State Police shall permit the inspection of records by requestors who are:

  1. Named in the record.
  2. The attorney of record of a requestor named in the record.
  3. A qualified beneficiary of individual named in the record. (Qualified beneficiaries of individual named in the record will need to provide a copy your driver’s with a copy of the death certificate, registered Will or a letter from the estate attorney.)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the Public Information Act?

  1. Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA) gives the public the right to access gover​​nment records without unnecessary cost and delay.
  2. The PIA applies to all three branches of Maryland state government as well as local government entities. The PIA is found in the General Provisions Title 4. Public Information Act Subtitle 2 Inspection of Public Records.
  3. It is similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act which applies to federal executive branch agencies and independent federal regulatory agencies.
  4. The PIA grants you the right to review the available records that are dis-closable and to obtain copies of those records. It does not require an agency to answer informational questions or to create a record to satisfy your request.

2. What is a public record?


A public record is defined as the original or copy of any documentary material in any form created or received by an agency in connection with the transaction of public business. Included in this definition are written materials, books, photographs, photocopies, firms, microfilms, records, tapes, computerized records, maps, drawings and other materials.

3. Are all government records available?


No. The PIA attempts to balance the public’s right to access government records with other policies that respect the privacy or confidentiality of certain information.

For example, the PIA mandates denial of inspection of  public records that are confidential under federal law, other state statutes,  court rules, or  various common law privileges such as attorney-client privilege and executive privilege. Md. Code Ann. General Provisions (“GP”) § 4-301  The PIA itself also protects certain records from disclosure (for example, firearm records, GP §4-325 , personnel records,GP § 4-311  and retirement records GP § 4-312 ). In addition, some information contained in public records must remain confidential (for example, an individual’s medical or psychological information, GP § 4-329, and confidential commercial information and trade secrets,GP § 4-335).

Other records may be withheld if the agency decides that disclosure of those records would be “contrary to the public interest, GP § 4-343.  Examples of records subject to discretionary disclosure include investigatory records, GP §4-351,information related to academic, licensing, and employment examinations, GP § 4-345,  and documents of a pre-decisional and deliberative nature, GP § 4-344.​

4. Do I have a right to obtain a record about me even if it is otherwise confidential under the PIA?


In some cases yes, the PIA grants a “person in interest” a right to access some records that are otherwise not available to the public under the PIA. A person in interest is usually the person who is the subject of the record.

5. How long will it take for an agency to respond to my request?


A notice must be provided in writing or by email within ten working days of receipt of the request. The notice must tell the applicant how much time it will take to produce the record, the reason for the delay, and an “estimate of the range of fees” that might be involved in producing the record.

6. Is there a charge for obtaining records under the PIA?


Yes, the PIA allows an agency to charge a “reasonable fee” for copies of public records. An agency may also charge a reasonable fee for searching for a public record – a charge that may include the time required for locating and reviewing the record. The first two hours of search time are free, but an extensive search may prove time-consuming and therefore expensive. Thus, it is in both your interest and the agency’s interest to ensure that a PIA request clearly and accurately describes the records sought. Actual fee schedules may be found in agency regulations. Agencies may choose to waive fees in particular cases. A fee Schedule can be located under COMAR 29.01.02.13.

6. What happens if my request for records is denied?


If an agency denies all or part of your request, it must provide you with a written explanation that includes the reason for the denial, the legal authority justifying the denial, and your appeal rights
.

7. How can I learn more about the PIA?


The Office of the Attorney General publishes a detailed legal analysis of the PIA in the Maryland Public Information Act Manual. The Manual also includes the text of the PIA and a sample request letter to help you make a PIA request. The Manual is available for purchase for $10 by sending a check to the Office of Attorney General, Opinions and Advice Division, 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, Maryland 21202. The manual is also available without charge on the Attorney General’s website:

http://www.oag.state.md.us/Opengov/pia.htm.

8. How do I submit a PIA request?​

A PIA request can be submitted through the Public Information Requests form given below.  All fields are required.  After submission of your form, you will receive an email confirmation that your request has been received.



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