The Missouri Sunshine Law is open to all, holds that nearly every public agency is subject to the law except for some kinds of judicial records, and has a very narrowly worded exemptions list that is more specific than much of the exemption language in other states FOIA laws. Enforcement is fairly strong, with a one thousand dollar fine for violators of the law that unknowingly failed to comply with the law and a $5,000 fine for purposeful violations of the law. Fees are held to actual cost in Missouri. There is however no public records custodian, counselor or ombudsman here.
There are no administrative appeals here. Instead a requester has one year to file a suit in circuit court if they wish to appeal a request for any reason.
It should be noted that technically Missouri has two public records law. The other is known as the 2and predates the Sunshine Law, being established 1961. This law is much more limited than the Sunshine Law, and deals only with records kept due to statute or ordinance.
- Three day response time
- No administrative appeal
- Narrow scope for exemption language
Can you submit a request if you’re not a resident?
Access to public records in Missouri are covered by two laws, the Missouri Sunshine Law and the Missouri Public Records Law: The former is open to all, while the latter restricts some or all requests to Missouri citizens (A full list of states with such restrictions). MuckRock may use volunteer proxy filers to file requests in this state.
In this instance, the regulation restricting the right to citizen requesters in the Missouri Public Records Law reads:
All public records … except as otherwise provided shall be open for a personal inspection by any citizen of this state at a reasonable time and place; and those in charge of such records shall not refuse this privilege to any citizen.
To whom does this apply?
According to the law only administrative records from the Judiciary are available for disclosure. Article 1, § 14 of the Missouri Constitution states that “the courts of justice shall be open to every person,” and the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in Transit Casualty Co., 435 S.W.3d 293, 300 (Mo. banc 2001) that “there is a common law right of public access to court and other public records”. The state AG has held that juror records are considered administrative as well. Juvenile court records are totally off limits.
Who is exempted?
The Sunshine Law is quite broad and other than charitable groups that are not an arm of the government, all public bodies are free to request documents from.
Is there a designated records custodian?
How long do they have to respond?
In Missouri agencies have three days to comply or deny a request or invoke a Reasonable Cause exception for more time. If they have not responded by three days the agency must give you a detailed written explanation for why they are late and also provide an estimated date of completion.
Does the agency have to give you a tracking number or estimated date of completion?
No for the tracking number, but if the agency goes over the three day time limit without responding they must give you an estimated date of completion.
Can they ask why you ask?
For inadvertent violations of the law there are penalties of up to $1,000 for an individual or agency. For purposeful violations the law stipulates up to $5,000 in fines. The court deciding on the penalties weighs previous offenses by the defendant, size of the jurisdiction that the offender operates in, and the gravity of the offense.
Searches must be conducted in the most efficient way possible but searches can be charged for at actual cost of labor. Copying is charged for at actual cost of labor and the cost of the paper or electronic means used in duplication.
Are there fee waivers for media requests or those made in the public interest?
Yes, if you can prove you are requesting to further public knowledge and good, there are fee waivers available here.
Attorney’s fees - Can you win them?
Yes, provided you win your appeal in court.
Exemptions and Appeals
What exemptions exist?
Exemptions to the Missouri Sunshine Law are supposed to be construed as narrowly as possible to further the openness of government. This makes Missouri’s list of 21 exemptions quite interesting, as they are very detailed about their scope. For instance when deliberating on whether or not to disclose real estate documents, an agency must weigh whether or not release really would adversely affect the legal consideration of that real estate. This very thorough breakdown of when records may be released under the exemption is very helpful and very detailed and can be very useful when requesting records in Missouri.
As for the actual exemption categories themselves, they are fairly standard. Personnel records, social security information, proprietary information in science or technology, personal financial information, law enforcement techniques and active cases, many kinds of medical records, scholastic information and sealed bids. A full list of Missouri’s exemptions can be found in the resources section.
Do they have to tell you why a portion or pages were redacted or withheld?
How much time do you have to appeal?
Can you appeal the courts?
Yes. In Missouri the only recourse for a requester is to file an appeal in the circuit court that the violation occurred in.
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 Missouri. 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 Missouri
Public Records Guide and Advice
Big FOIA wins
Have a public records success story? Let us know!
- Request Record
- 694 Filed
- 236 Completed
- 37 Rejected
- 163 No Responsive Documents
- 44 Awaiting Acknowledgement
- 27 Awaiting Response
- 49 Requiring Action
- 69 Overdue
- 3 appeals awaiting response
- Allowed Response Time
- 3 days
- Average Response Time
- 51 days
- Success Rate
- Average Fee
- 18.88% of requests have a fee
Top Agencies See All
|St. Louis County Police Department||100||351|
|St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department||83||9,373|
|Ferguson Police Department||50||688|
|Kansas City Police Department||45||786|
|Office of the Attorney General - Missouri||33||4,188|
|Department of Corrections||30||1,527|
|Missouri Highway Patrol||29||235|
|Office of the Governor||24||1,659|
|Missouri Department of Public Safety||17||144|
|University of Missouri||16||12,013|
Top Localities See All
|St. Louis County, MO||125||544|
|St. Louis, MO||116||9,491|
|Kansas City, MO||55||1,117|
|Jefferson County, MO||12||1,018|
|St Charles County, MO||8||287|
|Franklin County, MO||5||13|