2006 Code of Virginia § 2.2-3704 - Public records to be open to inspection; procedure for requesting records and responding to request...

2.2-3704. Public records to be open to inspection; procedure for requestingrecords and responding to request; charges.

A. Except as otherwise specifically provided by law, all public records shallbe open to inspection and copying by any citizens of the Commonwealth duringthe regular office hours of the custodian of such records. Access to suchrecords shall not be denied to citizens of the Commonwealth, representativesof newspapers and magazines with circulation in the Commonwealth, andrepresentatives of radio and television stations broadcasting in or into theCommonwealth. The custodian may require the requester to provide his name andlegal address. The custodian of such records shall take all necessaryprecautions for their preservation and safekeeping.

B. A request for public records shall identify the requested records withreasonable specificity. The request need not make reference to this chapterin order to invoke the provisions of this chapter or to impose the timelimits for response by a public body. Any public body that is subject to thischapter and that is the custodian of the requested records shall promptly,but in all cases within five working days of receiving a request, make one ofthe following responses:

1. The requested records will be provided to the requester.

2. The requested records will be entirely withheld because their release isprohibited by law or the custodian has exercised his discretion to withholdthe records in accordance with this chapter. Such response shall (i) be inwriting, (ii) identify with reasonable particularity the volume and subjectmatter of withheld records, and (iii) cite, as to each category of withheldrecords, the specific Code section that authorizes the withholding of therecords.

3. The requested records will be provided in part and withheld in partbecause the release of part of the records is prohibited by law or thecustodian has exercised his discretion to withhold a portion of the recordsin accordance with this chapter. Such response shall (i) be in writing, (ii)identify with reasonable particularity the subject matter of withheldportions, and (iii) cite, as to each category of withheld records, thespecific Code section that authorizes the withholding of the records. When aportion of a requested record is withheld, the public body may delete orexcise only that portion of the record to which an exemption applies andshall release the remainder of the record.

4. It is not practically possible to provide the requested records or todetermine whether they are available within the five-work-day period. Suchresponse shall be in writing and specify the conditions that make a responseimpossible. If the response is made within five working days, the public bodyshall have an additional seven work days in which to provide one of the threepreceding responses.

C. Any public body may petition the appropriate court for additional time torespond to a request for records when the request is for an extraordinaryvolume of records and a response by the public body within the time requiredby this chapter will prevent the public body from meeting its operationalresponsibilities. Before proceeding with the petition, however, the publicbody shall make reasonable efforts to reach an agreement with the requesterconcerning the production of the records requested.

D. Subject to the provisions of subsections G and J, no public body shall berequired to create a new record if the record does not already exist.However, a public body may abstract or summarize information under such termsand conditions as agreed between the requester and the public body.

E. Failure to respond to a request for records shall be deemed a denial ofthe request and shall constitute a violation of this chapter.

F. A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual costincurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requestedrecords. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary or surplusfees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating ormaintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body.Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual costof duplication. The public body may also make a reasonable charge for thecost incurred in supplying records produced from a geographic informationsystem at the request of anyone other than the owner of the land that is thesubject of the request. However, such charges shall not exceed the actualcost to the public body in supplying such records, except that the publicbody may charge, on a pro rata per acre basis, for the cost of creatingtopographical maps developed by the public body, for such maps or portionsthereof, which encompass a contiguous area greater than 50 acres. All chargesfor the supplying of requested records shall be estimated in advance at therequest of the citizen.

G. Public records maintained by a public body in an electronic dataprocessing system, computer database, or any other structured collection ofdata shall be made available to a requester at a reasonable cost, not toexceed the actual cost in accordance with subsection F. When electronic orother databases are combined or contain exempt and nonexempt records, thepublic body may provide access to the exempt records if not otherwiseprohibited by law, but shall provide access to the nonexempt records asprovided by this chapter.

Public bodies shall produce nonexempt records maintained in an electronicdatabase in any tangible medium identified by the requester, including, wherethe public body has the capability, the option of posting the records on awebsite or delivering the records through an electronic mail address providedby the requester, if that medium is used by the public body in the regularcourse of business. No public body shall be required to produce records froman electronic database in a format not regularly used by the public body.However, the public body shall make reasonable efforts to provide records inany format under such terms and conditions as agreed between the requesterand public body, including the payment of reasonable costs. The excision ofexempt fields of information from a database or the conversion of data fromone available format to another shall not be deemed the creation, preparationor compilation of a new public record.

H. In any case where a public body determines in advance that charges forproducing the requested records are likely to exceed $200, the public bodymay, before continuing to process the request, require the requester to agreeto payment of a deposit not to exceed the amount of the advancedetermination. The deposit shall be credited toward the final cost ofsupplying the requested records. The period within which the public bodyshall respond under this section shall be tolled for the amount of time thatelapses between notice of the advance determination and the response of therequester.

I. Before processing a request for records, a public body may require therequester to pay any amounts owed to the public body for previous requestsfor records that remain unpaid 30 days or more after billing.

J. Every public body of state government shall compile, and annually update,an index of computer databases that contains at a minimum those databasescreated by them on or after July 1, 1997. "Computer database" means astructured collection of data or records residing in a computer. Such indexshall be a public record and shall include, at a minimum, the followinginformation with respect to each database listed therein: a list of datafields, a description of the format or record layout, the date last updated,a list of any data fields to which public access is restricted, a descriptionof each format in which the database can be copied or reproduced using thepublic body's computer facilities, and a schedule of fees for the productionof copies in each available form. The form, context, language, and guidelinesfor the indices and the databases to be indexed shall be developed by theVirginia Information Technologies Agency in consultation with the Librarianof Virginia and the State Archivist. The public body shall not be required todisclose its software security, including passwords.

(1968, c. 479, 2.1-342; 1973, c. 461; 1974, c. 332; 1975, cc. 307, 312;1976, cc. 640, 709; 1977, c. 677; 1978, c. 810; 1979, cc. 682, 684, 686, 689;1980, cc. 678, 754; 1981, cc. 456, 464, 466, 589; 1982, cc. 225, 449, 452,560, 635; 1983, cc. 372, 462, 607; 1984, cc. 85, 395, 433, 513, 532; 1985,cc. 81, 155, 502, 618; 1986, cc. 273, 291, 383, 469, 592; 1987, cc. 401, 491,581; 1988, cc. 39, 151, 395, 411, 891, 902; 1989, cc. 56, 358, 478; 1990, cc.217, 538, 721, 819, 968; 1991, cc. 213, 561; 1992, cc. 40, 150, 167, 200,203, 207, 593, 612; 1993, cc. 205, 270, 296, 537, 552, 638, 750, 883; 1994,cc. 485, 532, 606, 839, 853, 918; 1995, cc. 299, 362, 499, 562, 638, 722,812, 837; 1996, cc. 168, 469, 589, 599, 783, 786, 794, 855, 862, 902, 905,1001, 1046; 1997, cc. 198, 295, 439, 567, 636, 641, 777, 782, 785, 838, 861;1998, cc. 427, 891; 1999, cc. 438, 703, 726; 2001, c. 844; 2002, cc. 715,830; 2003, cc. 275, 981, 1021.)

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