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10. Fines

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  • Alaska

    A section of the criminal code makes it a Class A misdemeanor for a person acting "under color of law, ordinance or regulation of this state or a municipality or other political subdivision of this state" to "intentionally deprive another of a right, privilege or immunity in fact granted by the constitution or laws of this state." AS 11.76.110.

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  • Arizona

    (This section is blank. See the point above.)

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  • Arkansas

    The FOIA contains no provisions for civil penalties or forfeitures. A person who negligently violates the FOIA, however, is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be fined up to $500. Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-104.

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  • California

    The CPRA does not provide for the imposition of fines; however, other statutes may. See, e.g., Cal. Ed. Code § 67380(b) ($1,000 penalty may be assessed against post-secondary educational institutions receiving state funds for failing to disclose records pertaining to certain specified crimes occurring on campus property).

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  • Colorado

    None are available.

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  • Delaware

    Not available.

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  • District of Columbia

    Any person who commits an arbitrary or capricious violation of the provisions of the D.C. Act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $100. D.C. Code Ann. § 2-537(d). All employees of the D.C. government are responsible for compliance with the provisions of the D.C. Act. D.C. Code Ann. § 2-537(e).

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  • Georgia

    The Act provides that any person or entity deliberately violating the Act (1) by knowingly and willingly failing or refusing to provide access to records not subject to exemption, (2) by knowingly and willingly failing or refusing to provide access to such records within the Act’s time limits or (3) by knowingly and willingly frustrating or attempting to frustrate the access to records by intentionally making records difficult to obtain or review shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000.00 for the first violation. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-74(a).

    Alternatively, negligent violations of the Act may result in a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000.00 for the first violation.  Id.

    A civil penalty or criminal fine not to exceed $2,500.00 per violation may be imposed for each additional violation that the violator commits within a 12 month period from the date the first penalty or fine was imposed.  Id.

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  • Hawaii

    The OIP may investigate violations by agencies, Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-42(4), and recommend appropriate disciplinary action to "appropriate officers of an agency," id. § 92F-42(6). Specific statutes governing particular records may also mandate fines.

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  • Idaho

    The Court may impose a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000 upon a public official who deliberately and in bad faith improperly refuses a legitimate request for inspection and copying. Idaho Code § 74-117.

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  • Illinois

    The court shall impose civil penalties against a public body, if the court determines that the public body willfully or intentionally failed to comply with the FOIA or otherwise acted in bad faith.  The civil penalty must range between $2,500.00 and $5,000.00 per occurrence.  See 5 ILCS 140/11(i).

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  • Indiana

    The Access to Public Records Act contemplates penalties under certain circumstances. See Ind. Code § 5-14-3-9.5. The Act also provides defenses to civil penalties. Id. § 5-14-3-9.5(f). Notably, individuals are personally liable under the Act, unless directed by a public agency officer. Id. § 5-14-3-9.5(j), (k). Additionally, a prevailing requestor for law enforcement recordings, the court may assess a civil penalty under Section 5-14-3-9.5. Id. § 5-14-3-9(k)(2).

    The trial court is the appropriate venue to determine whether a party is entitled to civil penalties. Holleman v. Indiana Dep’t of Correction, 27 N.E.3d 293, 296 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015).

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  • Iowa

    Damages assessed in amounts that vary depending upon whether the violation was knowing. Iowa Code § 22.10(b).

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  • Kansas

    Fines are not allowable. K.S.A. 45-223.

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  • Kentucky

    In addition to costs and attorney fees for willful violations, the Circuit Court may also "award the person an amount not to exceed twenty-five dollars ($25) for each day that he was denied the right to inspect or copy said public record." Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.882(5).  Such penalties are also discretionary with the Circuit Court, and Circuit Courts have discretion to impose penalties on a per-record basis. See Cabinet for Health & Family Servs. v. Courier-Journal, Inc., 493 S.W.3d 375 (Ky. Ct. App. 2016).

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  • Louisiana

    A person convicted of violating the Public Records Act shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $1,000 or imprisoned not less than one month nor more than six months upon first conviction and shall be fined not less than $250 nor more than $2,000 or imprisoned not less than two months nor more than six months, or both, upon subsequent convictions. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44.37.

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  • Maine

    A fine may be recovered, but only by the Attorney General or District Attorney. 1 M.R.S.A. § 410; Scola v. Town of Sanford, 1997 ME 119, ¶ 7, 695 A.2d 1194, 1195.

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  • Maryland

    A willful and knowing violation of the PIA, failure to petition a court after temporarily denying inspection of a public record, or accessing/gaining by false pretenses, bribery or theft a copy of a personal record where disclosure of such record is prohibited constitute a misdemeanor and a fine up to $1,000 may be imposed. § 4-402(b).

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  • Michigan

    If the circuit court finds that the public body has "arbitrarily and capriciously" violated the FOIA by refusing to disclose or delaying in disclosing or providing copies of a public record, the court will award, in addition to any actual or compensatory damages, punitive damages in the amount of $1,000.00 to the person seeking the right to inspect or receive a copy of a public record." Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.240(7). Previously, the amount of punative damages was $500.00, but the 2015 amendment doubled the amount. These damages are not to be assessed against an individual but against "the next succeeding public body that is not an individual and that kept or maintained the public record as part of its public function." Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.240(7).

    A plaintiff is not, of course, entitled to punitive damages or attorney’s fees and costs where he or she was not found to be entitled to the requested information. Bredemeier v. Kentwood Board of Education, 95 Mich. App. 767, 291 N.W.2d 199 (1980) (defendant's failure to provide plaintiff with written notice of denial constituted a violation of FOIA, but plaintiff could not collect fees, costs, or damages where requested information was not in recorded form). Moreover, a party must raise an argument for compensatory damages or the claim is abandoned. See Prins v. Michigan State Police, 299 Mich. App. 634 (2013).

    One example of a case where punitive damages were granted is Walloon Lake, supra, 415 N.W.2d at 296, where the actions of township officials in refusing FOIA requests without explanation and in rendering judicial order of disclosure impossible by disposing of the only copy of a document was considered an arbitrary and capricious violation of the FOIA as a matter of law. See also Kincaid v. Dep't of Corrections, 180 Mich. App. 176, 446 N.W.2d 604, 607 (1989) (affirming award of $500 in punitive damages against defendant which arbitrarily and capriciously denied request on basis that requests were not sufficiently specific despite fact that defendant's own records established the opposite to be true).

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  • Montana

    There are no fines associated with a refusal to provide access to documents.

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  • Nebraska

    Only if the custodian is prosecuted and convicted of a crime under §84-712.09. Conviction under that statute is a Class III misdemeanor, which carries a possible maximum fine of $500.

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  • Nevada

    The NPRA does not provide for fines against public agencies or officers who fail to disclose public records.

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  • New Hampshire

    Under RSA 91-A:8,IV the court has the authority to impose a civil fine of $250 to $2000 for a “bad faith” violation of the Statute does not impose fines.

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  • New Jersey

    N.J.S.A. 47:1A-11 provides that a public official, officer, employee or custodian who knowingly and willfully violates the act and is found to have unreasonably denied access under the totality of the circumstances is subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 for an initial violation, $2,500 for a second violation occurring within 10 years of the initial violation and $5,000 for a third violation within 10 years of an initial violation.

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  • New Mexico

    A custodian who does not deliver or mail a written explanation of denial in fifteen days after receipt of written request for inspection is subject to an action to enforce the act and the requester may be awarded damages not to exceed $100 per day. NMSA 1978 § 14-2-11(C)(2).  But see Derringer v. State of N.M., 2003-NMCA-73, 68 P.3d 961 (filing suit after compliance may eliminate possibility of an attorney fee, damages, or cost award). The failure to respond to an oral request shall not subject the custodian to any penalty.  NMSA 1978 § 14-2-8(A).

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  • North Carolina

    The Public records law does not provide for any fines, criminal sanctions, or other penalties for the unauthorized withholding of public records. There are criminal sanctions for the unlawful destruction of public records.

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  • North Dakota

    For an intentional or knowing violation, the court may award damages in an amount equal to one thousand dollars or actual damages caused by the violation, whichever is greater. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2(1).

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  • Ohio

    The public records statute does not authorize a fine. It authorizes statutory damages of $100 per business day up to a maximum of $1,000. Statutory damages are compensation for presumed injury of loss of use of requested public records, not a fine or penalty. The first day when a public office can be liable for statutory damages is the day that the requester sues. Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(C)(2).

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  • Oklahoma

    A public official found guilty of violating the Open Records Act may be fined up to $500. 51 O.S. § 24A.17.A.

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  • Oregon

    None, except contempt of court if the court’s order is not obeyed. See ORS 190.431.

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  • Rhode Island

    The court shall impose a civil fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000) against a public body or official found to have committed a knowing and willful violation of this chapter, and a civil fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) against a public body found to have recklessly violated the APRA.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-9(d).

    In Direct Action for Rights and Equality v. Gannon, 819 A.2d 651 (R.I. 2003), the Court held that statutory amendments allowing trial court to waive costs of retrieval and to award reasonable attorneys' fees in an APRA violation applies only to the imposition of a fine.

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  • South Carolina

    If the public body is found to have arbitrarily and capriciously violated the Act by refusal or delay in disclosing or providing copies of the public record, the court may impose a civil fine of $500 in addition to any actual or compensatory damages. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-110(F). .

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  • Tennessee

    There is no provision for the imposition of fines. Before the 1985 amendments, refusal or failure to release public records for inspection was a misdemeanor; however, this criminal sanction was eliminated.

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  • Texas

    The Act does not contemplate the award of damages for an officer’s non-compliance with the Act. Moore , 897 S.W.2d  at 501 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1995, no writ). However, Sections 552.351-.353 set forth fines and other penalties that can be assessed under the Act. An officer for public information who, with criminal negligence, “fails or refuses to give access to, or to permit or provide copying of, public information” may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, or both. Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.353(a), (e). Anyone who distributes information deemed confidential under the Act faces a similar criminal sentence and fine. Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.352. Section 552.351 provides that any person who “willfully destroys, mutilates, removes without permission as provided [in the Act], or alters public information” may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and face up to three months in jail and a $4,000 fine, or both.

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  • Utah

    A public employee who intentionally refuses to release a public record is guilty of a class B misdemeanor. See Utah Code § 63G-2-801(3). A class B misdemeanor is punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months. See id. §§ 76-3-204(2), 76-3-301(1)(d).

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  • Vermont

    “A person who willfully destroys, gives away, sells, discards, or damages a public record without having authority to do so shall be fined at least $ 50.00 but not more than $ 1,000.00 for each offense.”  1 V.S.A. § 320.

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  • Virginia

    No criminal fines are authorized by the Act.  If the Court finds that a violation was willfully and knowingly made, it shall impose upon the member of the public body, in his individual capacity, a civil penalty not less than $500.00 and not more than $2,000.00. The penalty for a second violation shall not be less than $2,000.00 nor more than $5,000.00. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3714.

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  • Washington

    A requesting party who prevails against the agency is entitled to recover, in addition to its costs and attorneys’ fees, a statutory penalty up to $100 per day for each day that records were improperly withheld. RCW 42.56.550(4). Because the statutory award is a penalty, and aimed at deterrence, the requester need not establish damages to recover or, for that matter, that the agency acted in bad faith. Amren v. City of Kalama, 131 Wn.2d 25, 37-38, 929 P.2d 389 (1997); American Civil Liberties Union of Washington v. Blaine Sch. Dist. No. 503, 95 Wn. App. 106, 111, 975 P.2d 536 (1999); Yacobellis v. City of Bellingham, 64 Wn. App. 295, 301, 825 P.2d 324 (1992). However, an agency’s bad or good faith is relevant in determining how high the penalty should be, as are such factors as the promptness of the agency’s response, the clarity of the request, the agency’s training practices and the significance of the records. Yousoufian v. Office of Ron Sims, 168 Wn.2d 444, 229 P.3d 735 (2010). A requester need not prevail as to every record to recover fees, so long as the requester “substantially” prevails. Overlake Fund v. City of Bellevue, 70 Wn. App. 789, 796, 855 P.2d 706 (1993), review denied, 123 Wn.2d 1009, 869 P.2d 1084 (1994). However, a requesting party who prevails against a private person opposing agency disclosure of a record is not entitled to attorneys’ fees. Yakima Newspapers, 77 Wn. App. at 329.

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  • West Virginia

    A "willful" violation of the Freedom of Information Act by a custodian of public records is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of "not less than two hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars.” W. Va. Code § 29B-1-6.

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  • Wyoming

    Violation of any provision of the Public Record Act is a misdemeanor, punishable by a civil penalty not to exceed $750.00. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-205 (1977, Rev. 1995).

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