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Question of the day: How can a public agency charge me more than $.10 per page for copies of public records?

A news director (and friend) from Western Kentucky recently asked:

"Why do police departments think they can charge fees outside the constraints of the Open Records Act—like this from Paducah Police:


Collision Report: $5.00

Crime Report: $1.00

(No charge for victim)

Citation Report: $1.00

Fingerprint Card: $5.00

Accident Reconstruction: $1.00 + $.10 per page

Large Files: $1.00 + $.10 per page

DVD: $25.00 per disc

Picture CDs: $10.00 per disc

Audio: $5.00

Taxi Cab IDs: $3.00

Taxi Cab Inspections: New $25.00

Renewal $15.00"

A few days later, he asked about a $.25 cents per page copying fee imposed by the McCracken Circuit Court.

We responded that although the $.10 per page copying fee for standard hard copy records —approved in caselaw and regulation — applies to most public agencies, the legislature has authorized some public agencies to impose higher copying fees. These agency-specific fee provisions override the general fee provision in the open records law.…

County clerks, for example, may charge up to $.50 per page for a copy of a record requested under the open records law. The Transportation Cabinet may charge $3 for a driver's history record. And, yes, police departments may charge $5 for copies of accident/collision reports ($10 for copies transmitted electronically).

Because it is unclear under what legal authority the Paducah Police Department charges, for example, $25 for a DVD, and because that fee clearly exceeds the department's actual cost for the disc and duplication, we suggested that our friend ask the police department to identify the statute or regulation authorizing this and the other listed charges.

We advised him that imposition of excessive fees is expressly identified in KRS 61.880(4) as a subversion of the intent of the open records law that — absent proof of specific fee statutes/regulations authorizing

the stated fees, or proof that the fees reflect the actual costs of copying (excluding staff time required) — he could successfully appeal.

Agencies incur no actual costs for records transmitted to the requester electronically and should therefore assess no fees for copies. Agencies are not, however, required to convert records maintained exclusively in hard copy format to electronic format to satisfy a request for electronic transmission of records.

And, with the only known exception of county clerks, public agencies cannot prevent a requester from making his/her own copy onsite (by, for example, a scanner or camera phone) as long as copying will not damage the record(s). Under the current "state of emergency," however, onsite inspection may not be an option.

As for the $.25 per page fee for copies of circuit court records, we explained that the open records law does not govern records of the courts or judicial agencies. Not long after the open records law was enacted, the Kentucky Supreme Court declared that "custody and control of the records generated by the courts in the course of their work are inseparable from the judicial function itself, and are not subject to statutory regulation." The "statutory regulation" to which the Court was referring was the open records law.…

The courts have fixed the fee "for providing a copy of a document" at $.25 per page.…

The McCracken Circuit Court's copying fee was therefore defensible. The Paducah Police Department's copying fee schedule — not so clearly.


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