Idaho Freedom of Information Act
What is the Idaho Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that requires the government of a state or federal government to release public records in its custody for inspection and copying upon request. The FOIA ensures the transparency of the government's activities. In Idaho, the Freedom of Information Act is referred to as the Idaho Public Records Act. It was enacted in 1990 to grant individuals the right to access and make copies of public documents upon request. Since its enactment, several revisions have been made to accommodate more exemptions to public records, such as court files of judiciary proceedings and law enforcement records. The most significant amendment came in 2015 when the Idaho Public Records Act was codified in the Idaho Statutes, Chapter 1 of Title 74.
What is Covered Under the Idaho Freedom of Information Act?
The Idaho Public Records Act covers all records that are maintained by government agencies in the state aside from the state militia. Public records are non-confidential documents and all forms of recordings that relate to the activities of state agencies, independent public bodies, corporate and local agencies. In Idaho, public records that are accessible to requesters are electronic mails, texts, raw notes, preliminary drafts, working papers, photographs, films, public fund records, and recordings. Other accessible records include inmate records, sex offender records, property records, divorce records, public business transaction documents, court records, and arrest records. In cases where specific information or records are considered confidential, the Idaho Public Records Act ensures that such records are not available to the public.
What Records are Exempted from the Freedom of Information Act in Idaho?
Some records are exempted from the Public Record Act because their disclosure may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, jeopardize the safety of the record subjects, or interfere with enforcement proceedings. The specific exemptions are recorded between Section 74-104 and Section 74-112 of the Idaho Public Record Act. These exemptions include, but are not limited to:
- Voter registration cards
- Voting records of the sexual offender classification board
- Prisoner records
- Court orders that could trigger access to confidentiality
- Juvenile records
- Voter registration records
- Current and former employee records
- Hospital and medical care records
- Tax information
- Workers compensation records
- Archeological records and endangered species locations
- Records of the Idaho Housing and Finance Association (IHFA)
- Trade secrets
- Academic research
In 2020, the Idaho State House of Representatives passed HB 601, which is also referred to as Legislative Public Records. This Bill added two additional exemptions, including legislators' personal communications and legislators' personal matters.
How Do I File an Idaho Freedom of Information Act Request?
To file an Idaho Freedom of Information Act request, submit a written application to the government agency in the custody of the record. If you are requesting a family member's record, include a document that clearly states your relationship to receive the person's information in the application. There is no general agency in Idaho that manages public records. A requester is required to send a public record request to the right agency maintaining the requested record. Some examples of government agencies and the public records they maintain are:
- Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) - Animal health records, agriculture inspection records, etc.
- Idaho State Tax Commission - Property tax records, sales tax records, etc.
- Idaho State Department of Health and Welfare - Vaccination records, residents' Medicaid records, etc.
- Idaho Department of Lands - Land lease records, land exchange records, etc.
- Idaho Department of Correction - Sex offender records, inmate records, fugitive records, etc.
The contact information and addresses of government agencies can be found on their respective websites. Depending on the agencies where public records are needed, requesters will be required to either fill out forms or submit written requests.
The details in the online form or written request may vary depending on the government agency maintaining the requested record. However, specific information that should be included in the written requests include:
- Requester's name
- Requester's address and contact information
- A precise description of the requested records
For instance, if requesting a public record from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, complete the online Public Records Request Form and submit it by fax to (208) 334-2170, email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to:
Idaho Department of Agriculture
2270 Old Penitentiary Road
P.O. Box 7249
Boise, ID 83707
Similarly, to request a public record from the Idaho State Tax Commission, a requester can submit the Public Records Request Form (Form PRR) by email to email@example.com, fax to (208) 639-5742, or mail to:
Postal Agency: Procedures Section
P.O. Box 83720
450 West State Street, 10th Floor,
Boise, ID 83720-0036
A requester must indicate the record type, either paper copies or electronic copies of the record requested from the Idaho State Tax Commission.
What is the Cost of a Freedom of Information Act Request in Idaho?
Section 74-102 of the Idaho Public Records Act permits public agencies to charge fees for public record requests in specific cases. Such fees cover the cost of searching for and making copies of the requested records, but they do not exceed real labor costs. Also, no fee is charged for the first two hours of labor on a request for a record from which nonpublic information will be deleted or a record fewer than 100 pages. However, a fee of 10 cents per page is charged on a request after the first 100 pages.
How Long Does It Take to Respond to a Freedom of Information Act Request in Idaho?
It takes a maximum of three business days for a government agency to grant or deny a request under the Idaho Public Records Act. This does not infer that the agency should delay response by three business days for a record that is readily available. The response time depends on the nature of the request. The response time may extend to 10 business days if the responding agency requires more time to deal with the request appropriately. The agency must notify the requester of the extra time required to process the record in such a case.
The Idaho Code Section 74-103 stipulates that if an agency or independent public body fails to respond within the required time frame of three business days from the date of request, the request shall be considered denied. However, the public agency must, in writing, notify the requester about the partial or total denial of the request for the public record. The notice of denial or partial denial will include the statutory authority for the denial, the requester's right to appeal the denial or partial denial, and the specific time frame for doing so. The requester can appeal the denial at the District Court in the county or city where the requested record is stored. The Idaho Code 74-115(1) requires the requester to file the appeal within 180 days of receiving the notice of denial. The record custodian who denied the record must reply to the petition within 28 days of receiving the denial appeal. The Idaho Public Records Act also places a fine of up to $1,000 on officials and agencies found to have inappropriately processed requests of any sort.