FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-39-01


August 16, 2001

Mr. Patrick Mannix
Bristol, Virginia

The staff of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your telephone conversation of June 15, 2001.

Dear Mr. Mannix:

You have asked a question concerning the fees that a public body may charge in response to a request for records under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). You indicate that whenever you make a request to your local sheriff's office for records, the office charges a minimum of $6.00 for making the request. You ask if FOIA authorizes a public body to impose such a charge.

Subsection F of § 2.1-342 of the Code of Virginia allows a public body to make reasonable charges for 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. To the extent that the sheriff's office has determined in advance that it would cost the office $6.00 to search for and provide the records that you have requested, then this charge would be valid. However, the law does not permit a public body to charge a fee simply to make a request, without regards to the costs that will actually be incurred in responding to the request. Such a fee would appear to be extraneous, and thus prohibited by law.

Thank you for contacting this office. I hope that I have been of assistance.


Maria J.K. Everett
Executive Director