North Carolina, USA

North Carolina Public Records Guide

North Carolina Public Records Law

G.S. ยง132-1

Passed in 1935

Table of Contents

  1. Overview
  2. The Law
  3. Resources
  4. Stats


North Carolina’s Public Records Law is a study in opposites. On one hand, it’s both broad and expansive, explicitly applying to every branch and agency. Agencies are forbidden from even asking why a requester is seeking certain records, and are only allowed to charge processing fees in case when “an extensive amount of labor” is involved. And while the latter’s language leaves it open to an officer’s discretion, there’s a separate oversight office to help negotiate fees and ensure the provision isn’t abused.

But on the other hand, the law lacks any real form of enforcement. There’s no time limit in which a request has to be completed, and coupled with the lack of a formal appeal system, requesters without the resources to bring a a lawsuit are left with little recourse but to languish. Requesters dealing with good faith agencies have a strong law on their side, while requesters dealing with bad faith agencies have little to fall back onto.

The Law


  • No time limit
  • No appeals process
  • Processing fees prohibited unless request involves “extensive use of labor”

The Details

Can you submit a request if you’re not a resident?


To whom does this apply?







Is there a designated records custodian?


Who is exempted?

No agency/public entity is exempted.

How can requests be submitted?


Not clear.


Not clear.

By mail?


By email?


How long do they have to respond?

No statute.

Are there provisions regarding the extension of response times?


Does the agency have to give you a tracking number or estimated date of completion?


Can they ask why you ask?

No - Specifically exempted by law.

What enforcement?

Civil court.


Agencies are only allowed to charge copying fees, unless an “extensive amount of labor” is involved. The State Chief Information Office can mediate fees.

Are there fee waivers for media requests or those made in the public interest?


Attorney’s fees - Can you win them?


Exemptions and Appeals

What exemptions exist?

Do they have to tell you why a portion or pages were redacted or withheld?


How much time do you have to appeal?

No formal appeal.

To whom does the appeal go?

No formal appeal.

Can you appeal a delay?

No formal appeal.

Do agencies have to tell you where to send your appeal?

No formal appeal.

What if your appeal is denied?

No formal appeal.

Where else can you turn?

Civil court.

Are all appeals kept officially?

No formal appeal.



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.

Successful appeals

News Stories on Public Records Laws in the State

Submit a new link

Blogs and feeds

Public Records Guide and Advice


Big FOIA wins

Have a public records success story? Let us know!


Request Record
529 Filed
231 Completed
19 Rejected
87 No Responsive Documents
106 Awaiting Acknowledgement
31 Awaiting Response
32 Requiring Action
Allowed Response Time
No limit
Average Response Time
53 days
Success Rate
Average Fee
1.32% of requests have a fee

Top Agencies See All

Agency Requests Pages Released
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department 44 2,770
Raleigh Police Department 28 372
Durham Police Department 25 415
Greensboro Police Department 22 157
North Carolina Department of Public Safety 21 1,077
Winston-Salem Police Department 21 151
Wilmington Police Department 13 1,168
Department of Corrections 12 1,057
Fayetteville Police Department 11 2
Cary Police Department 10 660

Top Localities See All

Jurisdiction Requests Pages Released
Charlotte, NC 58 3,364
Durham, NC 32 494
Raleigh, NC 32 385
Wilmington, NC 26 1,213
Greensboro, NC 22 157
Winston-Salem, NC 22 151
Chapel Hill, NC 15 14
Fayetteville, NC 13 2
New Hanover County, NC 10 37
Cary, NC 10 660