Nevada Freedom of Information Act
What is the Nevada Freedom of Information Act?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as established by Congress, allows the public to inspect or copy information related to a government agency's function, practices, and plans. The State of Nevada's adaptation of the Act is the Nevada Public Records Act (NPRA) and is codified in Chapter 239 of the Nevada Revised Statutes. The Act puts no limitation on who may file a request to inspect public records. Except where exemptions apply, all public books and records of a governmental entity, the contents of which are not required under any law to be confidential, must be open at all times during office hours for inspection by any individual.
Per Section 239.001 et seq., the Nevada Public Records Act aims to ensure the government's accountability to the public by facilitating public access to essential information about governmental activities.
What is Covered Under the Nevada Freedom of Information Act?
Per N.R.S. 239.010, all state or municipal agency records are covered under the Nevada Public Record Act, except where declared confidential by law. Hence, by default, a piece of information is a public record unless specific confidentiality limitations apply. Also, pursuant to N.R.S 239.010, all public books and public records of a governmental entity must be accessible at all times.
The Nevada Revised Statutes defines a governmental entity to include:
- Any appointed or elected Nevada officer or of a political subdivision of the state
- Any board, commission, institution, bureau, council, division, or department authority
- A university foundation
- An educational foundation dedicated to the assistance of public schools.
The NPRA also includes any private entity under contract with the government to provide services to the general public that are substantially similar to the services offered by the government and are in lieu of services required or authorized to be provided by the government.
Although public books and public records are not defined under the NPRA, a document qualifies as a public book or public record if:
- The agency mandated the submission or creation and the maintenance of the record.
- The record was created for the purpose of conducting or facilitating agency business.
- The record was made available to other offices or agencies for the purpose of official approval or reporting.
- The record contains information on formal business actions.
Under NRS 239.010(4), public books or records are also covered under the NPRA in whatever form or medium they are readily available.
What Records are Exempt from the Freedom of Information Act in Nevada?
Confidential records are exempt from the NPRA. According to Section 239.0105 of the Nevada Revised Statutes, records are considered confidential if they contain identifying information. Government entities are required to maintain a list of records and portions of records considered confidential in line with the stated personally-identifying information.
Pursuant to Section 239.010 of the Nevada Revised Statutes, records of a local government entity are considered nonpublic records or nonpublic books if:
- They contain the names, addresses, Social Security numbers, telephone numbers, or other identifying information of natural persons.
- The natural persons whose names, addresses, telephone numbers, or other identifying information contained in the records submitted such information to local government entities for:
- Registering with or applying to the local governmental entity for the use of any recreational facility or part thereof that the local governmental entity makes available for use via reservation acceptance; or
- Registering or enrolling in or applying to a local governmental body on their own behalf or behalf of a minor child for participation in an instructional or recreational activity or event organized, operated, or sponsored by the local governmental entity.
Records that fall under the scope of the above-listed conditions may only be disclosed by a local government entity if:
- A court order or subpoena mandates disclosure.
- An affidavit of a counsel stating that the disclosure of such records is necessary for the purpose of conducting an inquiry in preparation of litigation
- A request for disclosure of such records made by a reporter or editorial staff of a newspaper, press association, or commercially run, federally licensed radio or television station
- Disclosure is required pursuant to N.R.S. 239.0115
Under Section 239.014 of the Nevada Revised Statutes, a government entity may also prohibit the disclosure of any information that may potentially result in negative consequences, such as financial loss, stigmatization, harm to reputation, anxiety, embarrassment, fear, and any other physical or emotional harm, for the individual to whom the information pertains.
Also, following a Nevada Supreme Court's decision in 1990, a balancing test must be applied to withholding a requested record when there is no provision of law that declares a record as confidential. This test weighs the agency's interest and rationale for protecting the document's confidentiality against the public's interest in reviewing the material. While the test supports open government, it acknowledges the presence of policy or privacy considerations justifying the withholding of public documents. When performing the balancing test, the agency must provide specific facts supporting the non-disclosure. The agency's legal counsel should be contacted whenever the balancing test is utilized. The agency must make the ultimate decision whether to disclose or not to disclose a record.
How Do I File a Nevada Freedom of Information Act Request?
The first step in making a public record request is to verify the agency with custody of the record you desire. You may make a request to the record custodian in person, by email, mail, fax, or over the telephone. Pursuant to N.R.S. 239.107, the requirement for a government agency to initiate the processing of a public record request is an oral or written request for inspection or copying. Requesters do not need to present a statement of purpose or state the reason for the use of the record requested. The only limitation on the use of public information is contained in Section 239.010 of the Nevada Revised Statutes, which mandates that the use of public information must ultimately be subject to federal copyright laws.
After identifying the agency maintaining the record you want to obtain, you may visit the agency's website to access a FOIA request form. Although not all agencies provide this option for requesters, many do. Hence, you can either complete a fillable online FOIA request form or download a request form that may be completed and mailed to the address on the form. If you cannot find a FOIA request form on the agency's website, you can find the telephone number of the agency or its record section on the website. You can initiate an informal request using the telephone number. Public record requests may also be made formally in writing to the contact address of the agency maintaining the record. When you make requests in writing, ensure to include as much information as possible to help the agency locate the record and contact you for correspondence.
For instance, you can download and complete a Public Record Request Form to make a request to the Nevada Secretary of State's Office. Upon completing the form, mail it to:
Public Information Officer
Nevada Secretary of State
101 North Carson Street, Suite 3
Carson City, NV 89701
You may also make requests via email to the office's Public Information Officer at email@example.com. The fee schedule for public record requests to the office is available on the Nevada Secretary of State website.
The Office of the Nevada Attorney General accepts public records requests by mail, fax, telephone, email, and in person. The agency has a public record requests policy and a fee schedule for requests. You may complete a request form (fill and print version or print and handwrite version) and mail it to:
Public Records Coordinator
555 E. Washington Avenue, Suite 3900
Las Vegas, NV 89101
TelePhone: (702) 486-3420
Fax: (702) 486-3768
You can also make an in-person request to the address above.
What is the Cost of a Freedom of Information Act Request in Nevada?
Per N.R.S. 239.052(1), a government entity is authorized to charge a fee for providing a copy of any public record requested. However, this fee may not exceed the actual cost to the entity except as otherwise mandated by another statute. The NPRA requires an agency to create and maintain a schedule of fees for requesters to access public records. The fee schedule must be placed in a conspicuous place at the agency's office. An agency may not charge for determining whether a record is a public record, searching for or retrieving records, staff time spent complying with a public records request, a requester's use of a personal device to photograph or copy public records, or for recouping the original cost of developing or producing the records.
According to N.R.S 239.011, copies of transcripts of a court or administrative proceedings may attract an additional per-page fee, which must be visibly posted in an area that is easily accessible to requesters. Per N.R.S. 239.054 – 239.055, additional fees are applicable if the record requested is obtained from a geographic information system when it requires an extraordinary use of resources, personnel, or if microfilm is used.
For example, the Office of the Attorney General charges $0.05 per page for black and white copies of public records. Color copies are charged at $0.5 per page. The fee for certified true copies is $5 per page, the same for requests provided on compact discs or DVDs.
In accordance with N.R.S. 239.052(2), partial fee waivers and complete fee waivers for public record requests are available only at the discretion of the government entity if it adopts a written policy that waives a portion or all of the charges for copies of public records. Fee waivers are required to be standardized and evenly applied.
How Long Does it Take to Respond to a Freedom of Information Act Request in Nevada?
Per N.R.S. 239.0107, Nevada law requires public agencies to respond to public record requests no later than the end of the fifth business day after the request has been received. The response may grant the requester the right to inspect a record, obtain a copy, or provide the requester with a written notification stating why the record is not yet available and the time and date when the record will be available. Alternatively, the response may also communicate why the request was denied via written notice and indicate the specific statute supporting the denial.
If an agency denies a request, the requester may petition the district court in the county where the public book or record is maintained for an order:
- Permitting the requestor to inspect or copy the book or record; or
- Requiring the agency with legal custody or control of the public book or record to furnish a copy to the requestor.