Legal Resources Freedom of Information Act Guide
There is no initial fee to file a FOIA request and, in the majority of requests made to the Commission, no fees are ever charged. By law, however, an agency is entitled to charge certain fees, which depend on the category of requester you fall into.
Three types of fees may be charged for FOIA requests:
- The costs of searching for the documents;
- The costs of reviewing the documents to decide if they should be included in the response to your request; and
- The costs of duplicating the documents.
FOIA divides requesters into three categories:
- Commercial requesters may be charged fees for all three;
- "Educational or noncommercial scientific institutions" or "representatives of the news media" are charged only for photocopying expenses after the first 100 pages of copies; or
- Requesters who do not fall into the two categories above are not charged for processing, only for searches and photocopying, and there is no charge for the first two hours of search time or for the first 100 pages of photocopies.
Searching: Depends on size and complexity
Processing: Depends on size and complexity
Duplicating: 15 cents per page
In all cases, if the total fee does not exceed the minimum amount, currently $15.00, the Commission will not charge any fee at all.
Additional Fee Policies:
If you do not include a specific statement in your request outlining the maximum amount that you are willing to pay in fees, the Commission will assume that you are willing to pay fees of up to $25.00. If the Commission estimates that the total fees will exceed $25.00, it will notify you in writing of the estimate and offer you an opportunity to narrow your request in order to reduce the fees.
If you still want all of the records involved, you will be asked to express your commitment to pay the estimated fees in writing. Processing your request will be suspended until you agree to do so.
If you agree to pay fees and then fail to do so within 30 days of billing, you may be charged interest on your overdue balance and the Commission will not process any further requests from you until payment has been made in full.
If you have failed to pay fees within 30 days of billing in the past, or if the estimated fees exceed $250.00, you may be required to pay the estimated fees in advance.
If you agree to pay fees for searching for records, be aware that you may be required to pay such fees even if the search does not locate any responsive records or, if records are located, they are withheld as entirely exempt.
However, ordinarily you will not be required to actually pay the fees until the records have been processed and are ready to be sent to you.