Code of the District of Columbia

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

*NOTE: This section includes amendments by temporary legislation that will expire on October 27, 2021. To view the text of this section after the expiration of all emergency and temporary legislation affecting this section, click this link: Permanent Version.*

(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 paragraphs (2) and (3) of this subsection, a public body, upon request reasonably describing any public record, shall within 15 days (except Saturdays, Sundays, days of the Initial COVID-19 closure, 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, days of the Initial COVID-19 closure, 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.

(3)(A) For requests made during the Initial COVID-19 closure, a public body shall within 45 days (except Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) of the end of the Initial COVID-19 closure 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.

(B) If the public record requested during the Initial COVID-19 closure is a body-worn camera recording recorded by the Metropolitan Police Department, the Metropolitan Police Department, upon request reasonably describing the recording, shall within 60 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.

(d)(1) In unusual circumstances, the time limits prescribed in subsection (c)(1) and (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. Except for an unusual circumstance set forth in paragraph (2)(D) of this subsection, such extension shall not exceed 10 days (except Saturdays, Sundays, days of the Initial COVID-19 closure, and legal holidays) for records requested under subsections (c)(1) of this section and 15 days (except Saturdays, Sundays, days of the Initial COVID-19 closure, and legal holidays) for records requested under subsection (c)(2) of this section. For an unusual circumstance set forth in paragraph (2)(D) of this subsection, such extension shall not exceed 45 days (except Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) after the end of the COVID-19 closure.

(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.

(D) The need to conduct an on-site review of records that could present a significant risk to health or safety during a COVID-19 closure.

(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.