We the People: How to Access Public Records

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For the past 100 years, Florida has had a public records law, giving its citizens open access to any document connected with official business of any state agency.

Eyewitness News Reporter John Rogers continues his 'We the People' series by looking into how you can use this law yourself.

Public records are made available so the public can be aware of what their state and local agencies are up to.

But many in the public are unaware that they have this right.

When you're requesting a public record, you don't have to give a reason...and you don't have to reveal your identity.

Florida Sunshine and Public Record Attorney Alexis Lambert says, "You do not have to show your identification, say your name, or give any proof of who you are because the right to access public records is for everyone regardless of who you are."

You can request these documents from any state or local public agency.

Businesses working on behalf of the public fall in line with this law too.

The Attorney General's office says when doing so, the agency could ask for some address to send it to, and the office says a reasonable fee could be charged.

An 8-by-11 inch page can cost up to 15-cents per copy

Five cents more can be added for double-sided copies.

And depending on the nature of your request, the cost could be more.

"As a general rule, it's 15-cents a page," says Lambert.

But you don't always have to pay.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum says, "If he wants to access them just to look at them, and it's a reasonable request, then he has an absolute right to it."

And it's a right that some people believe in and others shrug at.

"I'm a taxpayer, I have kids going to the different universities here and I'd like to know where my money is being spent at," says one man while walking in downtown Tallahassee.

"I think it's a breach of confidentiality," says one woman.

The Attorney General's office says Florida is one of the nation's leaders in open government and public access.

The process of looking at this information is simple...all the public has to do is ask.

On Wednesday, John Rogers concludes the 'We the People' series by looking into who enforces the public records law and what the punishments are if it is not followed.

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