Legal Q&A: Search and retrieval fees (March 2018)
Q: Does a public body have to charge for the fees associated with search, retrieval, and redaction of records in fulfilling a FOIA request?
A: No. A public body can reduce or not charge you for fulfilling a request when the agency determines that waiver or reduction of those reasonable fees is in the public interest because furnishing the information can be considered as primarily benefiting the general public. If you are requesting the records for a piece you are writing for publication, it is highly likely their disclosure will benefit the general public. Also remember that any fees that are charged cannot exceed the prorated hourly salary of the lowest paid employee who, in the reasonable discretion of the custodian of the records, has the necessary skill and training to perform the request.
Taylor M. Smith IV is a media lawyer who represents the S.C. Press Association and its newspapers. As one of our FOI/Legal Hotline attorneys, he is available to answer your open government, legal and libel questions. Call (803) 750-9561.