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Indiana Access to Public Records Act

Indiana Access to Public Records Act

The Indiana Access to Public Records Act (APRA) is an Indiana law that allows residents of the state access to most records of government activities. The statute makes it the public policy of the state that “all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and employees.” This right is not unlimited, of course, but the statute importantly places the burden of persuasion on the government agency rather than the person seeking the record in question. In other words, if a government agency wants to prevent the release of requested records or information, it has the burden of proving to the courts why the info should not be released rather than forcing the requester to prove that the information should be released.

Requests for a public record must be made to the appropriate agency with reasonable particularity. This requirement means that a request cannot be general in nature, such as a request for large amounts of records to conduct what amounts to a “fishing expedition”. Rather, the requester must request specific documents or info, though the agency cannot require that the request be so specific as to make it overly difficult for the requester to get the information they want. Also, agencies have the discretion to require that the request be in writing or on a form created and provided by the agency.

There are several carve-outs to APRA. Information that can never be released to the public includes information declared confidential under state or federal statute or administrative law, patient medical records, or Social Security numbers. Other information may fall under discretionary exclusions, a category that gives the agency discretion to decide whether or not to disclose the info. These types of information include the criminal investigatory records of law enforcement, attorney work product, inter-agency or intra-agency deliberative material, expressions of opinion or speculations that are expressed for the purpose of decision-making, and some personnel file information.

If a state agency or body denies a records request, it must provide an explanation that includes the statutory basis for the denial and the name and position of the person responsible for making the decision. If a request is denied, the requester may sue in state court to force the government body to turn over the records. If the plaintiff (the person requesting the information) is successful, the agency may also be ordered to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees and reasonable costs of litigation.

If you have any questions about how to exercise your rights under ARPA, please contact the attorneys at McNeelyLaw LLP for their assistance.

This McNeelyLaw LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.

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