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Public Records: A Guide for Law Enforcement Agencies 2004 Edition

NCJ Number
Date Published
143 pages
This guide informs Florida law enforcement agencies of their responsibilities in complying with the State's Public Records Act as amended through the 2003 legislative sessions and interpreted in key court decisions and Attorney General Legal Opinions.
The Public Records Act essentially defines what is a "public record" and then mandates that all public records be accessible for viewing by the public. The Florida Supreme Court has interpreted the Act's definition of "public records" as encompassing all materials made or received by an agency in connection with official business that are used to perpetuate, communicate, or formalize knowledge. All such materials, whether or not they are in final form, are open for public inspection unless the legislature has exempted them from disclosure. Law enforcement agencies are among those agencies covered under the Public Records Act. This guide for law enforcement agencies in complying with the Act describes the kinds of agency records that must be made available to the public. They are placed in the general categories of computer records, financial records, litigation records, personnel records, and social security numbers. Regarding the latter information, the guide indicates that social security numbers held by an agency or its agents, employees, or contractors are confidential and exempt from disclosure requirements and may be released only as provided in the exemption. This guide also discusses the extent to which a law enforcement agency can regulate or limit the inspection and copying of public records. In specifying the statutory exemptions for law enforcement records, the guide focuses on the exemptions pertinent to active criminal investigations and intelligence information, autopsy records, "Baker Act" reports, confessions, confidential informants, criminal history information, Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission records, domestic violence files, emergency "911" voice recordings, HIV (AIDS) test results, juvenile offender records, motor vehicle records, pawnbroker records, prison and inmate records, security system information, surveillance information, and victim information. Other topics addressed in major sections of the guide are the fees that may be imposed for inspecting and copying public records, possible responses if an agency refuses to produce public records for inspection and copying, and the length of time an agency should retain a public record. 366 notes and appended provisions of the Public Records Act relevant to the material in the guide


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