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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Rights and Responsibilities

EMAIL YOUR REQUESTS TO: FOIA@VSP.VIRGINIA.GOV

Thank you for your interest in public records held by the Department of State Police. We will work to process your request and make a response to you according to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

 

Please make reference to the information below.

FOIA Requests for Accident/Crash Reports (FR300) Must be Submitted to the 

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

 

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located § 2.2-3700 (http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/2.2-3700) et. seq. of the Code of Virginia, guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees.

A public record is any writing or recording regardless of whether it is a paper record, an electronic file, an audio or video recording, or any other format that is prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business. All public records are presumed to be open, and may only be withheld if a specific, statutory exemption or other law applies to those records.

The policy of FOIA states that the purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities. In furthering this policy, FOIA requires that the law be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption allowing public records to be withheld must be interpreted narrowly.

Your FOIA Rights 

If you believe that your FOIA rights have been violated, you may file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with FOIA.

Making a Request for Records from the Department of State Police:

 

 You may request records by U.S. Mail, fax, e-mail, in person, or over the phone.  FOIA does not require that your request be in writing, nor do you need to specifically state that you are requesting records under FOIA.

From a practical perspective, it may be helpful to both you and the person receiving your request to put your request in writing.  This allows you to create a record of your request.  It also gives the Department a clear statement of what records you are requesting, so that there is no misunderstanding over a verbal request.  However, the Department cannot refuse to respond to your FOIA request if you elect not to put it in writing.

For example, if you are requesting records maintained in an Excel database, you may elect to receive those records electronically, via e-mail or on a computer disk, or to receive a printed copy of those records
If the Department has questions about your request, please cooperate with the staff's efforts to clarify the type of records you are seeking, or to attempt to reach a reasonable agreement about a response to a large request.  Making a FOIA request is not an adversarial process, but the Department may need to discuss your request with you to ensure that it understands what records you are seeking.

 

Where to Send A FOIA Request or Questions Regarding FOIA

FOIA Officer: First Sergeant David L. Ostwinkle
Telephone: 804-674-2642
Fax:  804-674-2345
E-mail:  FOIA@vsp.virginia.gov

 

Additional Resource for Questions 

The Freedom of Information Advisory Council is available to answer any questions you may have about FOIA.  The Council may be contacted by e-mail at foiacouncil@dls.virginia.gov, or by phone at (804) 698-1810 or [toll free] 1-866-448-4100.

The Department's Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request 

The Department must respond to your request within five working days of receiving it.  "Day One" is considered the day after your request is received.  The five-day period does not include weekends or holidays.
The reason behind your request for public records is irrelevant, and the Department cannot ask you why you want the records before responding to your request.  FOIA does, however, allow the Department to ask you to provide your name and legal address.

FOIA requires that the Department make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:

If it is practically impossible for the Department to respond to your request within the five-day period, the Department must state this in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response impossible.  This provision will allow the Department seven additional working days to respond to your request, giving the Department a total of 12 working days to respond to your request.

If you make a request for a very large number of records, and the Department feels that it cannot provide the records to you within 12 days without disrupting other organizational responsibilities, the Department may petition the court for additional time to respond to your request.  However, FOIA requires that the Department make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you concerning the production or the records before it goes to court to ask for more time.

Costs 

A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication. All charges for the supplying of requested records shall be estimated in advance at the request of the citizen as set forth in subsection F of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.

Note: As stated above, you may request that the Department estimate in advance the charges for supplying the records that you have requested.  This estimate will allow you to know about any costs upfront, or give you the opportunity to modify your request in an attempt to lower the estimated costs.

If the Department estimates that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, the Department may require you to pay a deposit before proceeding with your request.

Common Exemptions to FOIA Requests

The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure.  The Department commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions:

The Federal Freedom of Information Act only applies to federal agencies and not to the Department or other state agencies.

The following frequently requested records are governed by the following statutes: