Government Records Delaware: Where to Obtain Government Records for the State of Delaware?
Freedom of Information Act
The State of Delaware passed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 1977 in order to ensure the openness and accountability of the government to the people it serves. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) can be placed into action whenever the public requisitions certain information, except for certain information that FOIA and other state and federal laws themselves prohibit or forbid, including individual medical records, personnel records in companies, school or college student records, tax returns and other tax-related information, Social Security numbers, individual or private Welfare records, Family and Social Services records for individuals within the system as well as prospective parents; criminal records for felonies or misdemeanors, individual Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records and related information, General Assembly or court records.
However, this does not mean that the information and records mentioned above are not at all available to the public. The public can obtain records for most of the above-mentioned categories through the appropriate channels. For example, criminal records can be accessed (unless the records are sealed) from various search engines such as delawarestaterecords.com.
How to fill an FOIA form
The Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) takes care of most FOIA forms. According to their official website (https://www.doe.k12.de.us/domain/196), there are two main ways of submitting an FOIA request form. Persons who are requesting information under FOIA can fill the online FOIA form for the State of Delaware (https://alpha.delaware.gov/foia/) or they can download and fill a PDF form and send it to the address mentioned in the DDOE website.
However, according to the website, all FOIA requests must be written in a detailed manner, accurately describing the records that the individual seeks in order to enable DDOE to locate such records (because public records are numerous and have many complex subsections, this means that the person filling the form must have adequate and specific detail about the records or information they seek).
Some of the additional information that the applicant may have to provide for the specification is the kind(s) of record(s) they seek, dates, individuals or parties to correspond, as well as the subject matter of the record(s) that are being requested. However, since requests by regular mail can get delayed due to security screening, the DDOE website recommends submitting the request form by email or directly online.
Logistics of FOIA: FOIA requires that respective state agencies or public bodies (in this case, the Delaware Department of Education or DDOE) give or deny access to requested records or information within 15 business days from the date of the received request. However, if the request requires multiple or large amounts of records, is complicated or needs legal advice, or is fo archived or stored records, the public body or state agency (the DDOE) must inform the applicant of such details within those 15 business days, and then a reasonable amount of time is given for them to deny or give access to requested records. However, Requesting an FOIA form is not free. The FOIA itself provides a provision for a reasonable fee to cover copying and mailing costs.
Potential demerits of FOIA
The law provides exceptions to public bodies or state agencies (such as DDOE) to deny requests for information based solely on their discretion. Additionally, a lot of information is off-limits under FOIA, and due to these restrictions, Delaware ranks in the bottom barrel for transparency and accountability according to an independent study.
Since the process is also not free or speedy in any way, it is possible that, if denied; the time, energy and money of the applicant be all for naught.
However, if the individual feels that the denial of their request is in some way a violation of FOIA, they can take this matter to the FOIA Co-ordinator or the Delaware Department of Justice.
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