The 7 steps to obtaining public records.
From the Arizona Ombudsman Citizens’ Aide web page.
Arizona public records laws
Title 39. Public Records, Printing and Notices.
- A.R.S. §§ 39-121 through 39-128
Title 41 State Government
- A.R.S. §§ 41-151 through 41-151.24 (some State Government defnitions)
Step 1: First you need to determine what records you want to inspect. Remember, you are requesting specific documents rather than general information. It is helpful to make your request as specific as possible.
Step 2: Next you must determine who maintains custody of the records you want to inspect. Requests to inspect public records should be directed to the public “officer” who maintains custody of the records. It is wise to first check the agency’s web site and look for a request form or contact the public body directly. For help locating the custodian for specific types of records go to https://www.azlibrary.gov/arm/accessing-arizona-public-records.
Step 3: Do your research. Collect as much information as you can from search engines and web sites. Our website might be helpful. Go to www.azoca.gov and click on public records and then links.
If you do not have access to a computer or the Internet, look in the front of the phone book for government listings.
Step 4: Once you have determined what records you want to inspect and where they are located, you must request the public records. The Arizona Public Records Law no longer requires the submission of a written request for “non-commercial” matters. If an oral request is denied, however, you should submit a written request for access to the documents to the head of the public body involved. The request should be drafted narrowly, identifying the documents to be inspected with as much precision as possible.
Step 5: Wait for a response. The custodian of the public record is obligated to promptly furnish the requested records. What constitutes prompt will depend on what is reasonable under the circumstances. Some requests will require greater time for the custodian of the records to review and determine whether certain information should be deleted from the records. If the turnaround time is not set forth on the public records request form, ask how long it is anticipated to take. Regardless, call after a week to verify that they did in fact receive and process your request.
Step 6: Should your request be denied, you may appeal the denial through a special action in the superior court. But first, you might consider contacting the Arizona Ombudsman – Citizens’ Aide for assistance. The Ombudsman is statutorily authorized to investigate complaints relating to public access laws, request testimony or evidence, issue subpoenas, conduct hearings, make recommendations, and report misconduct.
Step 7: Last resort. You decide to take it to court and lose. If that’s the case, the denial of access through a special action may be pursued in the Court of Appeals or Arizona Supreme Court in the appropriate circumstances
Index to Title 39. Public Records, Printing and Notices.
- Link to — Chapter 1. Public Records
- Link to — Article 1. Requirements for Material Used
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-101. Permanent public records; quality; storage; violation; classification
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-102. Annual report; copies
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-103. Size of public records; exemptions
- Link to — Article 2. Searches and Copies
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-121. Inspection of public records
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-121.01. Definitions; maintenance of records; copies, printouts or photographs of public records; examination by mail; index
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-121.02. Action on denial of access; costs and attorney fees; damages
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-121.03. Request for copies, printouts or photographs; statement of purpose; commercial purpose as abuse of public record; determination by governor; civil penalty; definition
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-121.04. Public access to law enforcement records depicting certain witnesses or crime victims; victim rights
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-122. Free searches for and copies of public records to be used in claims against United States; liability for noncompliance
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-123. Information identifying eligible persons; confidentiality; definitions
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-123.01. Personal identifying information of crime witnesses; confidentiality; definition
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-124. Releasing information identifying an eligible person; violations; classification; definitions
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-125. Information relating to location of archaeological discoveries and places or objects included or eligible for inclusion on the Arizona register of historic places; confidentiality
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-126. Federal risk assessments of infrastructure; confidentiality
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-126.01. Local government; telecommunications infrastructure records; nondisclosure; exceptions
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-127. Free copies of police reports and transcripts for crime victims; definition
- Link to — AZ REV ST § 39-128. Disciplinary records of public officers and employees; disclosure; exceptions
Appendix A: Relevant Sections of A.R.S Title 39:
Public Records, Printing and Notices
§ 39-121. Inspection of public records
Public records and other matters in the custody of any officer shall be open to inspection by any person at all times during office hours.
§ 39-121.01. Definitions; maintenance of records; copies, printouts or photographs of public records; examination by mail; index
D. Subject to § 39-121.03 :
1. Any person may request to examine or be furnished copies, printouts or photographs of any public record during regular office hours or may request that the custodian mail a copy of any public record not otherwise available on the public body’s website to the requesting person. The **** any person requesting that the custodian mail a copy of any public record to pay in advance for any copying and postage charges. The custodian of such records shall promptly furnish such copies, printouts or photographs and may charge a fee if the facilities are available, except that public records for purposes listed in § 39-122 or 39-127 shall be furnished without charge.
2. If requested, the custodian of the records of an agency shall also furnish an index of records or categories of records that have been withheld and the reasons the records or categories of records have been withheld from the requesting person. The custodian shall not include in the index information that is expressly made privileged or confidential in statute or a court order. This paragraph shall not be construed by an administrative tribunal or a court of competent jurisdiction to prevent or require an order compelling a public body other than an agency to furnish an index. For the purposes of this paragraph, “agency” has the same meaning prescribed in § 41-1001 , but does not include the department of public safety, the department of transportation motor vehicle division, the department of juvenile corrections and the state department of corrections.
3. If the custodian of a public record does not have facilities for making copies, printouts or photographs of a public record which a person has a right to inspect, such person shall be granted access to the public record for the purpose of making copies, printouts or photographs. The copies, printouts or photographs shall be made while the public record is in the possession, custody and control of the custodian of the public record and shall be subject to the supervision of such custodian.
E. Access to a public record is deemed denied if a custodian fails to promptly respond to a request for production of a public record or fails to provide to the requesting person an index of any record or categories of records that are withheld from production pursuant to subsection D, paragraph 2 of this section.
§ 39-121.02. Action on denial of access; costs and attorney fees; damages
A. Any person who has requested to examine or copy public records pursuant to this article, and who has been denied access to or the right to copy such records,** may appeal the denial through a special action in the superior court**, pursuant to the rules of procedure for special actions against the officer or public body.
B. The court may award attorney fees and other legal costs that are reasonably incurred in any action under this article if the person seeking public records has substantially prevailed. Nothing in this subsection shall limit the rights of any party to recover attorney fees, expenses and double damages pursuant to § 12-349 .
C. Any person who is wrongfully denied access to public records pursuant to this article has a cause of action against the officer or public body for any damages resulting from the denial
§ 39-121.03. Request for copies, printouts or photographs; statement of purpose; commercial purpose as abuse of public record; determination by governor; civil penalty; definition
. . .
D. For the purposes of this section, “commercial purpose” means the use of a public record for the purpose of sale or resale or for the purpose of producing a document containing all or part of the copy, printout or photograph for sale or the obtaining of names and addresses from public records for the purpose of solicitation or the sale of names and addresses to another for the purpose of solicitation or for any purpose in which the purchaser can reasonably anticipate the receipt of monetary gain from the direct or indirect use of the public record. Commercial purpose does not mean the use of a public record as evidence or as research for evidence in an action in any judicial or quasi-judicial body.
§ 39-126. Federal risk assessments of infrastructure; confidentiality
Nothing in this chapter requires the disclosure of a risk assessment that is performed by or on behalf of a federal agency to evaluate critical energy, water or telecommunications infrastructure to determine its vulnerability to sabotage or attack.
§ 39-126.01. Local government; telecommunications infrastructure records; nondisclosure; exceptions
A. Except as provided in subsection B, a city, town or county shall not disclose any records relating to the construction of wireline telecommunications infrastructure, including the location of lines, equipment and plants used for telecommunications services on or along public streets or highways.
B. A city, town or county may disclose information relating to the location of lines, equipment and plants used for telecommunications services for any of the following:
1. As part of the bid, design or construction process of a capital project.
2. To provide information on the availability of telecommunications services for economic development purposes.
3. To provide general information to residents regarding construction activity within the city, town or county.