Government Records Pennsylvania: Where to Obtain Government Records for the State of Pennsylvania?
The state of Pennsylvania gives statutory right to request and inspect public records under Pennsylvania's Right-To-Know Law as per section 702. The record-keeper must provide the documents without any specific reason. They cannot deny a request based on the rights you may have specified, either.
What types of departments are covered under RTK Law?
All the commonwealth agencies, legislative agencies, local agencies, and judicial agencies, along with state offices, state authorities, state boards, state courts, state legislative bodies, and state departments, are covered under the RTK Law as per section 102.
What Types of Records can you request under RTK Law?
As per section 102, any record that contains
- the information about a transaction or activity of an agency and
- that is created, received, or retained under the law or
- has a connection with a transaction, business or operation of any of the agencies mentioned above can be requested.
The information can be in any possible format such as document, letter, map, book, tape, film, photography, sound recording, and more. However, there are some exemptions that you need to take care of while making the request.
Is the use of the form mandatory?
An email or letter will suffice. However, the form is short and straightforward to fill up. It eliminates any doubt that you are placing a request under the RTK law of the state.
What are the exemptions under RTK Law?
Under 708(b) of the RTK Law, a record-keeper can deny access to documents if:
- The records can cause financial damage to the agency
- Physical or personal harm to the individual
- The file is marked classified by the military
- Endanger security of a building
- Has personal medical information
- Has personal identification information
- Address of law enforcement officers
- DNA results
- Autopsy results
- Information of a minor
And more as per the exemptions
You can request the documents either verbally or in writing. If the agency denies access to the records, there are specific remedies that you can take as per the RTK Law in case you have filed the initial required in writing. While giving the request in writing, make sure to write it as clear as possible so that the record keeper can find the documents easily. The application should be made in the name of the open-records officer of the agency. You can send the request via mail, email, or fax. Also, it is essential to include the name and address to which the agency should send the records.
Time limits and cost
As per the law, the agency must respond within five business days. If they do not reply in five days, your request will be noted as denied. In case they need more time to complete the application, they will inform you and give you a reasonable date by which you will get the records. The agency cannot charge for the application. However, they may charge a minimal fee for postage, copying, certification, and conversion to paper.
What Are Your Remedies in Pennsylvania
In case your request has been wrongly denied by an agency, you can file an appeal with the Office of Open Records. It should be sent within fifteen business days. The request should have:
- Copy of the original request
- Copy of agency's response
- Written statements explaining the grounds on which requester asked for the documents and the request was denied
In case OOR also denies the appeal, you have an option to file a review in a court where the agency is located. If the court denies the request, you can file a petition in the Commonwealth Court. As per the law, the court will issue an opinion on the matter.
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