Arizona Agencies Can't Charge For Public Record Inspection

December 04, 2013

Getting access to public records is about to get less expensive.

Under state law those records must be open to inspection by anyone during normal business hours. But agencies have been allowed to charge a reasonable fee for making copies.

After a complaint from the state Ombudsman about some agencies prohibiting people from making their own copies, Attorney General Tom Horne issued a formal legal opinion saying that is not permitted. Attorney Dan Barr of the First Amendment Coalition says that changes the game.

“The reality is now pretty much everybody has a smartphone, and you're looking at a public document,” Barr said. “You can inspect it. You can go, hey, these few pages are interesting or this paragraph is something that I want. You can just take a picture of it.”

In his opinion, Horne says it is illegal to charge someone who just wants to view a document, even if the document first had to be redacted to keep information confidential. According to Horne, the government agency can only impose a charge if the person actually wants a copy of the document.