The California Public Records Act



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Copyright 2012

All rights reserved.

Government Code §§ 6250 - 6276.48


The Public Records Act is designed to give the public access to information in possession of public agencies: "public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours of the…agency and every person has a right to inspect any public record, except as . . . provided, [and to receive] an exact copy” of an identifiable record unless impracticable. (§ 6253).  Specific exceptions to disclosure are listed in sections 6253.2, 6253.5, 6253.6, 6254, 6254.1-6254.22, 6255, 6267, 6268, 6276.02-6276.48; to ensure maximum access, they are read narrowly.  The agency always bears the burden of justifying nondisclosure, and "any reasonably segregable portion . . . shall be available for inspection . . . after deletion of the portions which are exempt." (§ 6253(a))


All state and local agencies are subject to the PRA, including: (1) any officer, bureau, or department.; (2) any "board, commission or agency" created by the agency (including advisory boards); and (3) nonprofit entities that are legislative bodies of a local agency. (§ 6252(a),(b)).  Many state and regional agencies are required to have written public record policies.  A list appears in § 6253.4.


The agency must provide assistance by helping to identify records and information relevant to the request and suggesting ways to overcome any practical basis for denying access. (§ 6253.1)


An agency has 10 days to decide if copies will be provided. In "unusual" cases (request is "voluminous," seeks records held off-site, OR requires consultation with other agencies), the agency may, upon written notice to the requesters, give itself an additional 14 days to respond. (§ 6253(c))  These time periods may not be used solely to delay access to the records. (§ 6253(d))


The agency may never make records available only in electronic form. (§ 6253.9(e))


Access is always free.  Fees for “inspection” or “processing” are prohibited. (§ 6253)

Copy costs are limited to "statutory fees" set by the Legislature (not by local ordinance) or the "direct cost of duplication,” usually 10 to 25 cents per page. Charges for search, review or deletion are not allowed. (§ 6253(b); North County Parents v. D.O.E., 23 Cal.App.4th 144 (1994))  If a request for electronic records either (1) is for a record normally issued only periodically, or (2) requires data compilation, extraction, or programming, copying costs may include the cost of the programming. (§ 6253.9(a),(b))


The agency must justify the withholding of any record by demonstrating that the record is exempt or that the public interest in confidentiality outweighs the public interest in disclosure. (§ 6255)


For further information see: