Code of the District of Columbia

§ 2–532. Right of access to public records; allowable costs; time limits.

(a) Any person has a right to inspect, and at his or her discretion, to copy any public record of a public body, except as otherwise expressly provided by § 2-534, in accordance with reasonable rules that shall be issued by a public body after notice and comment, concerning the time and place of access.

(a-1) In making any record available to a person pursuant to this section, a public body shall provide the record in any form or format requested by the person, provided that the person shall pay the costs of reproducing the record in that form or format.

(a-2) In responding to a request for records pursuant to this section, a public body shall make reasonable efforts to search for the records in electronic form or format, except when the efforts would significantly interfere with the operation of the public body’s automated information system.

(a-3) A public body shall make available for inspection and copying any record produced or collected pursuant to a contract with a private contractor to perform a public function, and the public body with programmatic responsibility for the contractor shall be responsible for making such records available to the same extent as if the record were maintained by the public body.

(b) A public body may establish and collect fees not to exceed the actual cost of searching for, reviewing, redacting, and making copies of records. Documents may be furnished without charge or at a reduced charge where a public body determines that waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest because furnishing the information can be considered as primarily benefiting the general public.

(b-1) Any fee schedules adopted by the Mayor, an agency or a public body shall provide that:

(1) Fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document search, duplication, and review when records are requested for commercial use;

(2) Fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document duplication when records are not sought for commercial use and the request is made by an educational or non-commercial scientific institution for scholarly or scientific research, or a representative of the news media;

(3) For any request for records not described in paragraphs (1) or (2) of this subsection, fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document search and duplication; and

(4) Only the direct costs of search, duplication, or review may be recovered.

(b-2) Review costs shall include only the direct costs incurred during the initial examination of a document to determine whether the documents must be disclosed or withheld in part as exempt under this section. Review costs may not include costs incurred to determine issues of law or policy related to the request.

(b-3) No agency or public body may require advance payment of any fee unless the requester has previously failed to pay fees in a timely fashion, or the agency or public body has determined that the fee will exceed $250.

(c)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, a public body, upon request reasonably describing any public record, shall within 15 days (except Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) of the receipt of any such request either make the requested public record accessible or notify the person making such request of its determination not to make the requested public record or any part thereof accessible and the reasons therefor.

(2)(A) If the public record requested is a body-worn camera recording recorded by the Metropolitan Police Department, the Metropolitan Police Department, upon request reasonably describing the recording, shall within 25 days (except Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) of the receipt of any such request either make the requested recording accessible or notify the person making such request of its determination not to make the requested recording or any part thereof accessible and the reasons therefor.

(B) A request for a body-worn camera recording may only be submitted to the Metropolitan Police Department.

(d)(1) In unusual circumstances, the time limits prescribed in subsection (c)(1) and (c)(2) of this section may be extended by written notice to the person making such request setting forth the reasons for extension and expected date for determination. Such extension shall not exceed 10 days (except Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) for records requested under subsection (c)(1) of this section and 15 days (except Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) for records requested under subsection (c)(2) of this section.

(2) For the purposes of this subsection, and only to the extent necessary for processing of the particular request, “unusual circumstances” are limited to:

(A) The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records that are demanded in a single request;

(B) The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another public body having a substantial interest in the determination of the request or among 2 or more components of a public body having substantial subject-matter interest therein; or

(C) For body-worn camera recordings covered by subsection (c)(2) of this section, the inability to procure a vendor that is able to perform the redactions within the 25-day time period provided under subsection (c)(2) of this section.

(e) Any failure on the part of a public body to comply with a request under subsection (a) of this section within the time provisions of subsections (c) and (d) of this section shall be deemed a denial of the request, and the person making such request shall be deemed to have exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to such request, unless such person chooses to petition the Mayor pursuant to § 2-537 to review the deemed denial of the request.

(f) For purposes of this section, the term:

(1) “Reasonable efforts” means that a public body shall not be required to expend more than 8 hours of personnel time to reprogram or reformat records.

(1A) “Request” means a single demand for any number of documents made at one time to an individual public body.

(2) “Search” means to review manually or by automated means, public records for the purpose of locating those records which are responsive to a request.


(Oct. 21, 1968, Pub. L. 90-614, title II, § 202; as added Mar. 29, 1977, D.C. Law 1-96, § 2, 23 DCR 3744; Apr. 27, 2001, D.C. Law 13-283, § 3(b), 48 DCR 1917; Mar. 16, 2005, D.C. Law 15-242, § 2, 51 DCR 11229; Mar. 17, 2005, D.C. Law 15-256, § 2(a), 52 DCR 1158; Apr. 7, 2006, D.C. Law 16-91, § 132(a), 52 DCR 10637; Mar. 9, 2016, D.C. Law 21-83, § 2(a), 63 DCR 774.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-1522.

1973 Ed., § 1-1522.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 2-537, § 4-1301.52, § 7-2508.05, § 8-151.08, and § 22-4017.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 13-283 substituted “a public body” for “the Mayor or an agency”, “Mayor or agency”, or “the agency” wherever appearing throughout the section; and added subsecs. (a-1), (a-2), (a-3), and (f).

D.C. Law 15-242, in subsec. (b), rewrote the first sentence which had read: “ A public body may establish and collect fees not to exceed the actual cost of searching for or making copies of records, but in no instance shall the total fee for searching exceed $10 for each request.” and deleted the last sentence which had read: “Notwithstanding the foregoing, fees shall not be charged for examination and review by a public body to determine if such documents are subject to disclosure.”; and added subsecs. (b-1) to (b-3).

D.C. Law 15-256, in subsec. (c), substituted “10” for “15”.

D.C. Law 16-91, in subsec. (b), deleted the second sentence, which had read: “For purposes of this subsection, ”request“ means a single demand for any number of documents made at 1 time to an individual public body.”; and added par. (f)(1A).

The 2016 amendment by D.C. Law 21-83 rewrote the first sentence in (b); designated the existing text of (c) as (c)(1); added “Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection” at the beginning of (c)(1); added (c)(2); and rewrote (d).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of Documents Administrative Cost Assessment Emergency Amendment Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-290, January 6, 2004, 51 DCR 879).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(a) of Freedom of Information Legislative Records Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2004 (D.C. Act 15-591, November 1, 2004, 51 DCR 10729).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of Documents Administrative Cost Assessment Emergency Amendment Act of 2004 (D.C. Act 15-592, November 1, 2004, 51 DCR 10732).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of Documents Administrative Cost Assessment Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2005 (D.C. Act 16-22, February 17, 2005, 52 DCR 2972).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(a) of Freedom of Information Legislative Records Clarification Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2005 (D.C. Act 16-23, February 17, 2005, 52 DCR 2973).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(a) of the Body-Worn Camera Program Emergency Amendment Act of 2015 (D.C. Act 21-253, Dec. 30, 2015, 63 DCR 271).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of the Documents Administrative Cost Assessment Temporary Amendment Act of 2004 (D.C. Law 15-134, March 30, 2004, law notification 51 DCR 3820).

Editor's Notes

The Law Effective Date Notice for D.C. Law 1-96, published on April 8, 1977, was incorrect and was corrected on June 3, 1977, and published at 23 DCR 9532b.

Section 3 of D.C. Law 15-256 provided: “Sec. 3. Applicability. This act shall apply with respect to any requests for records pending on the effective date of this act, whether or not the request was made prior to that date, and shall apply to any civil action pending on that date.”