We strongly believe that the best way to ensure our freedom from an overreaching government is to make sure that the people we elect are held accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, it can be very hard to hold officials accountable for what they do if we don’t know what they’re doing. The key is to make sure the government is as transparent as possible. The best way to do that is through public records.
How to Access Public Records in Arizona
When you are looking for government information it can be challenging figuring out where to start. The good news is that pretty much everyone has a great place to go that is close to them. You can go and find Arizona public records at the library for free. Librarians are extremely helpful when it comes to locating the various types of government records you might be interested in too. They can help you narrow your search and point you in the right direction. This is especially helpful as trying to figure out what is recorded and how to access it can be pretty complex.
While the Arizona Revised Statutes define what should be recorded and kept and how to access it, the state agencies where the records reside set up rules and procedures that govern the release of documents to interested parties. For example, if a voter would like to learn about the real estate holdings and dealings of a candidate running for the Sheriff’s Office in Maricopa County, he or she can request such records from the County Recorder.
Some public records are more readily available than others. Court dockets, for example, can be easily obtained online or from each courthouse; in other cases, however, there may be a need for an FOIA request. The standard structure of this type of these requests begins with a preamble that invokes Arizona Public Records Law § 39.101et seq., followed by a description of the records sought, the maximum fees that the requester will be able to sustain, and the opportunity for the agency to explain rejections or denials.
It is important to note that the fees proposed by the agency must be reasonable, and they may be waived in cases when the requester intends to further disseminate the public records for the common good. Numerous cases throughout history show that public records requests have been declined, delayed and obfuscated in cases where governmental wrongdoing is suspected; in such situations, a requester may file a civil complaint in court.
Public Record Laws in Arizona
The keeping and disclosure of public records in the Grand Canyon State is covered under Title 39 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. When compared to other states, Arizona is a bit more conservative with regard to the release of personal records; however, this is not the case with court, business or government records, which fall under the standards promoted by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Access to public records is at the heart of a functioning democracy. Beyond accommodating FOIA requests, state officials should also make reasonable efforts to make government records as accessible as possible in the interest of ruling with openness and transparency.
A handful of records are exempt from public disclosure in Arizona; these include adoptions, disciplinary action of some professional groups, select health files, and others. Needless to say, certain records require full disclosure without the need for a request; for example, current legislative and electoral records should be made openly available on websites while court records should be carefully stored and archived for easy retrieval.