Note: This page covers information specific to Arizona. For general information concerning access to government records see the Access to Government Records section of this guide.
Anyone can inspect or copy all records maintained by any Arizona public body during office hours, pursuant to Arizona law, §§ 39-101-39.161. Generally you don't have to give an explanation, unless the records are to be used for commercial purposes. If so, you will have to state that use and the Governor can, by executive order, prohibit their release.
If the records are released for a commercial purpose, then you may also be charged a portion of the cost for getting the copies, a fee for time, materials and personnel, and commercial market value of the reproduction, pursuant to 39-121.03.
If you have a commerical purpose and don't say so, you may have to pay damages up to three times the amount that would normally be charged, plus costs and attorney fees. So, if you have a commerical purpose for the records, make sure you say it when requesting the records!
What Records Are Covered in Arizona
What Government Bodies Are Covered
You should be able to request records from any any subdivision of the state, county, municipality, school district, or any committee or subdivision supported by or spending state money. Any person elected or appointed to any public body is subject to the open records law. Any records they maintain on their offical activities or any activities supported either by state money or a state political subdivision are considered public, under § 39-121.01.
What Types of Records Can Be Requested?
If records aren't available online and you aren't able to go to the office, you can request the records to be mailed to you. However, the record custodian may request advance payment for copying and postage, so be ready to pay up front.
As of 2010, you can now request budgets of charter schools, actions of the State Board of Dental Examiners, and records of any abortions and/or abortion complications performed at any medical facility in the state. You can also access any contract that involves state funds online.
Any expense reports by political parties concerning campaign expenses are now public.
Any agency that denies your request must furnish an index of records that have been withheld and the reason for each — but only if you ask for it. The department of public safety, the department of transportation motor vehicle division, the department of juvenile corrections and the state department of corrections are exempt from this requirement.
Certain records relating to "eligible persons" (peace officers, justices, judges, public defenders, prosecutors, probation officers, law enforcement, national guardsmen, and anyone protected by court order) are exempt from disclosure pursuant to § 39-123. You have no right of access to any of the following records, if it relates to an eligible person:
- The home address or home telephone number, unless the office gives written consent or the record's custodian finds that a release would not create a reasonable risk of injury or damage to property.
- A photograph of any eligible person, unless the officer has been arrested or formally charged with a misdemeanor or felony, or if you work for a newspaper and you are requesting the record for a "specific newsworthy event." This won't apply if the officer is working undercover or if disclosure is not in the state's best interest. (This prohibition doesn't apply if: the picture is being used to make a complaint against the officer; if obtained from a source other than the law enforcement agency; or, the officer is no longer employed by the state.)
Any law enforcement agent who improperly discloses this information is guilty of a felony, so be wary if any officer gives you this information.
The law also exempts all archaeological discoveries and risk assessments of any energy, water or telecommunications infrastructures.
As of 2010, you no longer can access the names of any indivduals/firms who are applying for government contracts until the contract is complete. Also, all working papers and audits are exempted.
The Arizona Court of Appeals has indicated that trade secrets contained in public records may be protected by the confidentiality exemption to Arizona's public records laws. Phoenix Newspapers, Inc. v. Keegan, 35 P.3d 105, 112 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2001).
How to Request Records in Arizona
Making the requestThe law doesn't require any specific way of requesting records, so long as you request them during normal office hours. If the custodian doesn't respond to you promptly or give you an index when you ask for one, the law deems your request "denied" and you may pursue other remedies.
PaymentThe custodian of the records may charge you for access, but the law doesn't specify any amount. The exception is records listed in §§ 39-122 through 39-127, related to records used in claims against the United States. If you are requesting records for that purpose, the custodian can't charge you.
What Are Your Remedies in Arizona
If you've been denied access to open records you may sue the official who denied you, and you also may appeal to the superior court. If you win, the court may give you an amount to pay your attorney any fees you incurred in the suit, along with other legal costs (such as filing with the court, etc.) However, make sure you sue within one year of being denied access, pursuant to Arizona code § 12-821.