The Idaho Public Records Act is one of the younger sunshine laws in the nation. Perhaps because of this, it takes some notably different angles than other transparency laws around the country, especially in regards to how specific it is. This holds agencies responsible with tightly constructed language, but can also be restrictive for the requester. This creates an interesting FOIA double-edged sword in Idaho. For instance response times in Idaho are among the fastest in the US, taking 3 days to receive a response, and a maximum of 10 days if an agency deems they need the extra time to properly deal with a request. All branches of government and all agencies are held accountable, as well as records from executives and legislators themselves. Fees in Idaho are not to exceed actual labor costs and are again highly specifically worded. Enforcement of the law is also set down very directly in the act, with any official found to be processing requests inappropriately fined up to $1,000. However, a potential pitfall of the Public Records Act is the lack of a designated ombudsman or custodian of records, leaving it up to the requester and the court system to penalize an agency that has abused transparency laws. If an agency abuses the fees statute in the act say, it is up to the requester really to prove this and hold the offending agency accountable.
Perhaps the most unique and precise of all the language in the act are the 92 exemptions listed. Idaho legislators when writing the bill decided to detail exemptions as exactly as they could rather than write a few overarching exemptions meant to provide guidelines to agencies and the courts. This makes sense for a large, mostly rural state such as Idaho as judicial precedents are not set there as often as a more populous, cosmopolitan state. These exemptions cover lots of things that would likely be exempted elsewhere in the nation such as individual medical or financial records, police records that could be damaging to public safety or investigative prospects, trade secrets, and other information that is deemed sensitive or classified by the government. Having a precise list of 92 different exemptions can make things easier for a requester to see if his request will likely be denied.
The appeals process in Idaho is run exclusively through district appellate court since there is no records ombudsman. A requester is given a generous 180 days to decide if they would like to appeal a request. The court has 28 days to set up a hearing for the appeal, and if the district court denies the appeal, the requester has 42 days to decide on an appeal or not.
- 3 day response time unless specifically notified otherwise within that 3 day period
- All branches of government held accountable under the law
- Any citizen of any state may request
- Must appeal through Idaho district court through standard appellate proceedings
- No designated records custodian
Can you submit a request if you’re not a resident?
Yes, the law makes no distinction between citizens of Idaho or any other state.
To whom does this apply?
Is there a designated records custodian?
No. The act does not provide for an ombudsman or any other records custodian
Who is exempted?
No state branches or agencies are exempted outright in the act.
How can requests be submitted?
How long do they have to respond?
An agency has 3 days to respond to either grant or deny your request. If the agency needs more time, they must give you a written response within that 3 day period and may only grant themselves a maximum of 10 days to complete a request.
Does the agency have to give you a tracking number or estimated date of completion?
Can they ask why you ask?
A court may hold an official accountable for up to $1,000 for “deliberately and in bad faith improperly refusing a legitimate request for inspection and copying.” Idaho Code § 9-345.
An agency may charge a fee not exceeding the actual labor costs if a request is for more than 100 pages of documents, if private information must be deleted from requested records, or the locating and copying of documents takes more than two hours. Copying fees may not exceed the actual cost of that agency copying a record. A fee that is stipulated by law must be uniform to all persons can be imposed for copying electronic records on a computer disk, tapes or microfilm. Again this fee cannot exceed the direct cost of labor for the agency, or the cost of a third party to convert the record.
Are there fee waivers for media requests or those made in the public interest?
Not exactly. Agencies cannot charge fees for copying or search time if a requester has demonstrated they cannot pay, or the request is clearly in the public’s interest.
Attorney’s fees - Can you win them?
Yes, if the courts find that the request was handled improperly then one can win attorney’s fees.
Exemptions and Appeals
What exemptions exist?
There are 92 total FOIA exemptions in the state of Idaho’s public records act. Rather than have a few broader exemptions, the Idaho legislature decided to explicitly detail the exemptions in order to cut down on request appeals and controversy. If requesting in Idaho it is likely in your interest to find a complete list of all exemptions. However, many do deal with records that can also be exempted in other states as well. Documents that could interfere with police investigations or safety. The vast majority of records dealing with juveniles except for research or safety purposes. Majority of records concerning inmates in the correctional system. This includes their financial records, and records requested by another inmate of the DOC. Trade secrets and other records that may compromise an industry or company. Personal information such as insurance policies, private finance accounts, and other forms of private information such as social security numbers or other account numbers or passwords. Medical information that would be considered private and covered under HIPAA law. Computer programs made or maintained for public agency use. Research across a variety of fields that would impede current or future research in that field or subject or is the property of a private entity or place of higher education. Again, Idaho deals with exemptions in a very unique, highly expansive and specific fashion and if you think your request may touch on a record that Idaho has deemed exemptible taking a look at the list of 92 exemptions could be very useful in terms of saving time and effort.
Do they have to tell you why a portion or pages were redacted or withheld?
Yes. It is also mandated that in the letter explaining under what statute they withheld or redacted information they outline your avenues for appeal and the timeframe to appeal a decision.
How much time do you have to appeal?
Can you appeal the courts?
Yes. You have 42 days to appeal the appellate court’s decision.
Attorneys and Law Firms
The following attorneys and law firms have practiced public records law. Names marked with an asterisk have indicated a willingness to offer pro bono services on a case by case basis.
There are currently no experienced public records law attorneys that we know of in Idaho. Write to us at info@MuckRock.com if you know of any and want to help us out!
News Stories on Public Records Laws in the State
Blogs and feeds primarily focused on public records in Idaho
Public Records Guide and Advice
Big FOIA wins
Have a public records success story? Let us know!
- Request Record
- 407 Filed
- 194 Completed
- 14 Rejected
- 88 No Responsive Documents
- 26 Awaiting Acknowledgement
- 6 Awaiting Response
- 55 Requiring Action
- 31 Overdue
- Allowed Response Time
- 3 days
- Average Response Time
- 38 days
- Success Rate
- Average Fee
- 4.67% of requests have a fee
Top Agencies See All
|Idaho State Police||50||2,850|
|Department of Correction||36||1,997|
|Office of the Attorney General - Idaho||35||1,977|
|Boise Police Department||26||136|
|Office of the Governor - Idaho||22||598|
|State of Idaho Legislature||21||315|
|Department of Health and Welfare||19||209|
|Idaho Secretary of State||16||28|
|Canyon County Sheriff's Office||7||177|
|Ada County Sheriff's Office||7||450|
Top Localities See All
|Ada County, ID||8||500|
|Canyon County, ID||8||177|
|Madison County, ID||5||6|
|Bannock County, ID||4||38|
|Kootenai County, ID||4||80|
|Idaho Falls, ID||4||10|
|Twin Falls County, ID||3||30|
|Shoshone County, ID||3||235|