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F. Are there sanctions for noncompliance?


  • Alabama

    The Public Records Law itself does not reference sanctions for noncompliance.

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  • Alaska

    The Public Records Act provides no sanctions for noncompliance, but it does provide, in AS 40.25.125, for injunctive relief against anyone keeping you from getting public records:  “A person having custody or control of a public record who denies, obstructs, or attempts to obstruct, or a person not having custody or control who aids or abets another person in denying, obstructing, or attempting to obstruct, the inspection of a public record subject to inspection under AS 40.25.110 or 40.25.120 may be enjoined by the superior court from denying, obstructing, or attempting to obstruct, the inspection of public records subject to inspection under AS 40.25.110 or 40.25.120. A person may seek injunctive relief under this section without exhausting the person's remedies under AS 40.25.123 - 40.25.124.”  In exceptional cases, in addition to adverse publicity, other remedies such as recalls or criminal prosecution, or contempt citations for failure to abide by a court injunction or other order, are theoretically possible. See [Open Records] §V.D.10-.11, for discussion of certain other potentially applicable penalties, fines and sanctions. Traditionally, a significant deterrent against noncompliance had been that full attorney fees were available to the prevailing plaintiff in a public interest suit, which a suit asserting a right of public access to government information normally would be.  However, in 2003, the Alaska Legislature largely eliminated the public interest litigant exception to the general rule in Alaska that prevailing parties can recover a portion of their fees from the other side. In 2007, the Alaska Supreme Court rejected legal challenges seeking to overturn this law, and in 2018 the Court said public interest litigants seeking access to records couldn’t avoid this result by claiming it was constitutional litigation. See generally, Open Records Guide, §IV.D.9(a). Between the “loser pays” prevailing party fee rule applicable to all Alaska litigants, and elimination of the public interest exception, Alaska has become the only state that would presumptively impose fees and costs on news media and other public interest litigants who unsuccessfully pursue non-frivolous claims. This change has had and is likely to have a significant adverse effect on the press.

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  • Arizona

    A person wrongfully denied access to public records “has a cause of action against the officer or public body for any damages resulting from the denial.”  A.R.S. § 39-121.02(C) (emphasis added).

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  • Arkansas

    The FOIA provides for both criminal and civil enforcement. The FOIA’s criminal sanctions are found in Section 25-19-104, which provides that “[a]ny person who negligently violates any provisions of this [act] shall be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor.” A Class C misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $500, imprisonment for up to 30 days, or both. Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-4-104, -201, -401. The FOIA’s civil process is found in Section 25-19-107 and permits civil suits to enforce the FOIA. Section 25-19-107(c) empowers courts to find guilty of contempt persons who fail to comply with court orders, and Section 25-19-107(d) allows an award of attorney fees to a “substantially prevail[ing plaintiff] unless the court finds that the position of the defendant was substantially justified or that other circumstances make an award of these expenses unjust.”

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  • California

    The CPRA does not provide for sanctions for an agency's noncompliance with its disclosure obligations. Reasonable attorneys' fees and costs are mandatory to the prevailing plaintiff under Section 7923.115(a), however. If an agency fails to obey a court order requiring disclosure of public records, contempt sanctions may be imposed, following a hearing on an order to show cause. Cal. Gov't Code § 7923.100.

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  • Colorado

    Generally, there are no sanctions for noncompliance with the public records act. However, a willful and knowing violation of the Criminal Justice Records Act, which generally provides for public access to criminal justice records, is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars, imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 90 days, or both.  Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-309.

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  • Connecticut

    The FOIC has the authority to impose civil penalties of not less than twenty dollars and not more than one thousand dollars against any custodian or other official upon a denial of a right under FOIA “without reasonable grounds.” Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-206(b)(2). See Nastro v. FOIC, 2008 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1892 (2008) (affirming imposition of civil penalty).

    Any person who willfully, knowingly and with intent to do so, destroys, mutilates or otherwise disposes of any public record without the approval required under FOIA or unless pursuant to chapter 47 or 871, or who alters any public record, shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor and each such occurrence shall constitute a separate offense. Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-240(a).

    In Burton v. FOIC, 161 Conn. App. 654, certify. Denied 321 Conn. 901 (2016), the Appellate Court held that a complainant before the FOIC did not have standing to appeal the FOIC’s refusal to impose a civil penalty because the complainant was not aggrieved by that determination.

    Any member of any public agency who fails to comply with an order of the Freedom of Information Commission shall be guilty of a class B misdemeanor and each occurrence of failure to comply with such order shall constitute a separate offense. Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-240(b).

    A public agency may also bring an action in Connecticut Superior Court against any person whose appeal to the FOIC was denied because the FOIC determined that the “appeal or the underlying request would perpetrate an injustice or would constitute an abuse of the commission’s administrative process.” Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-241. The court may issue an injunction prohibiting the person from bringing further appeals to the FOIC; if the person continues to appeal, he or she will be conclusively in contempt of the order and the agency may seek further relief from the court. Id. See also Hodge v. FOIC, 2008 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2906 (2008), for a discussion regarding procedures for imposition of a civil penalty.

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  • District of Columbia

    Any person who arbitrarily or capriciously violates the D.C. Act can be found guilty of a misdemeanor and punished by a fine not to exceed $100. D.C. Code Ann. § 2-537(d).

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  • Florida

    The primary remedy available when a successful action is brought pursuant to Chapter 119 is a writ of mandamus requiring the agency to open its records for inspection. Fla. Stat. § 119.11(1) (1995); see also Town of Manalapan v. Rechler, 674 So. 2d 789, 790 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996).  No other sanctions are addressed.

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  • Georgia

    The Act allows private plaintiffs and the Attorney General to seek civil penalties for violations of the Act. Cardinale v. Keane, 362 Ga. App. 644, 869 S.E.2d 613 (2022). Criminal sanctions are also available. See, e.g.Garland v. State, 361 Ga. App. 724, 865 S.E.2d 533 (2021) (affirming conviction of former City of Atlanta mayoral press secretary on two misdemeanor counts of violating the Act).

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  • Idaho

    Idaho Code § 74-116(2) provides that, in any action to enforce the provisions of the Act, a “court shall award reasonable costs and attorney fees to the prevailing party or parties, if it finds that the request or refusal to provide records was frivolously pursued.” In addition, the Act provides that a court may assess a civil penalty of up to $1,000 against any public official who it finds “has deliberately and in bad faith improperly refused a legitimate request for inspection or copying.” Idaho Code § 74-117.

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  • Indiana

    In addition to authorizing a lawsuit to compel the public agency to release a record, Ind. Code Section 5-14-3-9(e), the statute also provides for disciplinary consequences to employees who violate the Act. Except as provided by Ind. Code § 4-15-10 (the state employees’ Bill of Rights), an employee or officer of a public agency who knowingly or intentionally discloses information classified as confidential by state statute commits a Class A misdemeanor. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-10(a). Furthermore, if a public employee intentionally, knowingly or recklessly discloses or fails to protect information classified as confidential by state statute, that employee may be disciplined in accordance with the personnel policies of the agency that employs him. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-10(b). If, however, a public employee “unintentionally or unknowingly” discloses confidential or erroneous information in response to a request under the Access to Public Records Act, or if the public employee discloses confidential information in reliance on an advisory opinion by the public access counselor, then that employee is “immune from liability” for such a disclosure. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-10(c).

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  • Louisiana

    Yes, if a Court chooses to impose them.  In addition to an order to produce records, if “the court finds that the custodian arbitrarily or capriciously withheld the requested record or unreasonably or arbitrarily failed to respond to the request as required by R.S. 44:32, it may award the requestor any actual damages. . . . In addition, if the court finds that the custodian unreasonably or arbitrarily failed to respond to the request as required by R.S. 44:32 it may award the requestor civil penalties not to exceed one hundred dollars per day, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays for each such day of such failure to give notification.”  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:35(E)(1).  And, the “custodian shall be personally liable for the payment of damages . . . and shall be liable in solido with the public body for the payment of the requestor’s attorney fees and other costs of litigation, except where the custodian has withheld or denied production of the requested record or records on advice of the legal counsel.”  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:35(E)(2).

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  • Maine

    For every willful violation of the Act, the state government agency or local government entity whose officer or employee committed the violation shall be liable for a civil violation for which a forfeiture of not more than $500 may be adjudged.  1 M.R.S.A. § 410.  The fine may only be collected by the state, not private persons.

    A substantially prevailing plaintiff may recover reasonable attorney’s fees and litigation expenses if the court determines that the refusal to provide access to public records or illegal action at a public meeting “was committed in bad faith.”  1 M.R.S.A. § 409(4).  Attorney’s fees and litigation costs may not be awarded to or against a federally recognized Indian tribe.  Id.

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  • Maryland

    Yes. The circuit court may enjoin the State, a political subdivision, or a unit, an official, or an employee of the State or og a political subdivision from withholding the public record or a copy, printout or photograph of the record; order the production of the withheld record or copy, printout or photograp;h, and award actual damages including attorneys' fees to the complainant if the Court finds that the complainant substantially prevailed in the suit seeking enforcement of the Act. § 4-362(c), (f); but see ACLU v. Leopold, 223 Md. App. 97, 123 (2015) ("actual damages" under the statute does not include emotional damages). In addition, a person, including an officer or employee of a governmental unit, is liable to an individual for actual damages that the court considers appropriate if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person willfully and knowingly (1) allows inspection of a public record that names or identifies the individual (e.g., by address, description, fingerprint, picture) or  (2) obtains, discloses or uses personal information. § 4-401(a). Further, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding $ 1,000 if he/she/they willfully or knowingly violates any provision of the Act, fails to petition a court after a temporary denial, or by false pretenses, bribery, or theft, accesses a personal record, the disclosure of which is prohibited. § 4-402(a)-(b); see also § 4-362(d).  Custodians found to have acted arbitrarily or capriciously in withholding a public record may be subject to disciplinary action. § 4-362(e). And custodians who fail to comply with a court order for production of a public record may be punished for contempt. § 4-362(e).

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  • Massachusetts

    There are no sanctions in the law.

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  • Michigan

    "The court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees, costs, and disbursements" to a requesting person that prevails under the FOIA. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.240(6). If the requesting person only prevails in part, "the court may, in its discretion, award all or an appropriate portion of reasonable attorney’s fees, costs, and disbursements." Id. Moreover, under the 2015 amendment, “[i]f the court determines . . . that a public body willfully and intentionally failed to comply with this act or otherwise acted in bad faith, the court shall order the public body to pay, in addition to any other award or sanction, a civil fine of not less than $2,500.00 or more than $7,500.00 for each occurrence.” Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.240b.

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  • Minnesota

    Persons who suffered damage as a result of a violation of the Act—usually parties about whom data has been wrongfully disclosed—may seek damages sustained in addition to costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. If a violation is willful on the part of the agency, exemplary damages of $1,000 to $15,000 are also available. Minn. Stat. § 13.08, subd. 1. In addition, the statute gives the court the power to enjoin an agency that has violated or proposes to violate the Act. Minn. Stat. § 13.08, subd. 2.

    A party seeking disclosure of data wrongfully withheld may, in addition to obtaining an order compelling compliance, recover costs and disbursements, including reasonable attorneys' fees. Minn. Stat. § 13.08, subd. 4. However, if the court decides that an action seeking access was frivolous, it may award reasonable costs and attorneys' fees to the agency. Id.

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  • Mississippi

    “Any person who shall deny to any person access to any public record which is not exempt from the provisions of this chapter or who charges an unreasonable fee for providing a public record may be liable civilly in his personal capacity in a sum not to exceed One Hundred Dollars ($ 100.00) per violation, plus all reasonable expenses incurred by such person bringing the proceeding.” Miss. Code Ann. 26-61-15; see also Final Order R-17-026.

    Attorneys’ fees are recoverable “expenses.”  Miss. Dept. of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks v. Miss. Wildlife Enforcement Officers Ass’n, 740 So. 2d 925 (Miss. 1999).

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  • Missouri

    The Sunshine Law provides for penalties of up to $1,000 for a body or member of a body found by a preponderance of the evidence to have violated the Law. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.027.3. The fine increases to $5,000 for a purposeful violation. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.027.4 If the court finds a knowing or purposeful violation, the court may order the body or member to pay costs and attorney fees to a successful party. See Chasnoff v. Mokwa, 466 S.W.3d 571 (Mo. Ct. App. 2015) (allowing plaintiffs to recover attorneys’ fees when a police department knowingly failed to produce records of misconduct).  The court shall determine the size of the penalty by taking into account the size of the jurisdiction, the seriousness of the offense, and previous violations of the Sunshine Law by the defendant.

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  • Montana

    There is no specific provision for sanctions; however, a plaintiff who prevails in an action brought in district court to enforce his rights under Article II, § 9, of the Montana Constitution may be awarded his costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. See Mont. Code Ann. § 2-3-221.

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  • Nebraska

    In a suit brought by a requester, the court may award attorney fees if the requester has "substantially prevailed." Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-712.07. Violation of the public records statutes is a Class III misdemeanor, and any official who violates the statutes may be removed or impeached. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-712.09.

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  • Nevada

    The requester can recover his or her costs and reasonable attorney’s fees in the proceeding from the governmental entity. NRS 239.011. An officer who mutilates, destroys, conceals, erases, obliterates or falsifies any record or paper appertaining to his or her office, is guilty of a category C felony. NRS 239.310.

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  • New Hampshire

    The Statute provides for reasonable attorneys’ fees if the court finds that a public body "knew or should have known that the conduct engaged in was a violation of" the Statute. RSA 91-A:8,I. Should the court find that a public official or employee of a public body has acted in bad faith, it may award such fees personally against the public official or employee. Id. Costs are awarded if the court finds that the lawsuit was necessary to make the information available or proceeding open to the public. On the other hand, the court may award attorneys’ fees in favor of a public body if it finds that the lawsuit was in "bad faith, frivolous, unjust, vexatious, wanton, or oppressive." RSA 91-A:8,I-a.

    In addition to awarding attorneys’ fees and costs, the court may invalidate action taken by a public body in violation of the Statute, and it may enjoin future violations of the Statute. RSA 91-A:8,II and III.

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  • New Jersey

    A requestor who prevails in any proceeding shall be entitled to a reasonable attorneys' fee. (See N.J.S.A. 47:1A-6). In addition, a public official, officer, employee or custodian who knowingly and willfully violates OPRA and is found to have unreasonably denied access under the totality of the circumstances, shall be subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 for an initial violation $2,500 for a second violation that occurs within 10 years of the initial violation, and $5,000 for a third violation occurring within 10 years of an initial violation that. Appropriate disciplinary proceedings may be initiated against a public official, officer, employee or custodian against whom a penalty has been imposed.

    (See N.J.S.A. 47:1A-11).

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  • New Mexico

    Sanctions for noncompliance are damages, court costs, and reasonable attorneys' fees which "shall" be awarded.  NMSA 1978 § 14-2-12(D) (1993).  Damages include compensatory and actual damages but not punitive or statutory damages.  Faber v. King, 2015-NMSC-015, 348 P.3d 173.

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  • New York

    N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 89(4)(c) authorizes the courts to award reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs to a petitioner in certain circumstances. Before amendments made in 2006, in order to be eligible for a recovery of fees, a party had to satisfy three statutory requirements: (1) the party must have “substantially prevailed” against the agency in the FOIL litigation; (2) the record involved must be of clearly significant interest to the general public, and (3) the agency must have lacked a reasonable basis in law for not disclosing the record. Public Officers Law § 89(4)(c).  Amendments made in 2006, however, struck the requirement that “the record involved [be], in fact, of clearly significant interest to the general public” for an award of attorneys’ fees.  2006 N.Y. Laws 492 (enacted Aug. 16, 2006).  The legislature amended this provision in order to “strengthen compliance with the Freedom of Information Law.”  Sen. John A. DeFrancisco’s Mem. in Support, 2006 N.Y. Laws, Ch. 492 (S. 7011-A).  According to Senator DeFrancisco’s Memorandum in Support of the amendment:

    Government agencies should not be allowed to ignore requests made pursuant to FOIL or delay responding for so long a time that the accountability the law seeks to ensure is lost.  This proposal would create a clear deterrent to unreasonable delays and denials of access . . . and would encourage every unit of government to make a good faith effort to comply with the requirements of FOIL.

    Id.  Pursuant to N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 89(4)(c), as amended, a court in its discretion may award reasonable counsel fees and litigation costs to a party that “substantially prevailed” in the proceeding, provided that the court finds that “the agency lacked a reasonable basis in law for withholding the record” or that “the agency failed to respond to a request or appeal within the statutory time frame.”

    As discussed below, fees are somewhat rare and have generally been limited to instances where an agency has flagrantly disregarded its disclosure obligations under FOIL. See Henry Schein, Inc. v. Eristoff, 35 A.D.3d 1124, 827 N.Y.S.2d 718 (3d Dep’t 2006) (decision to award counsel’s fees, even where statutory requisites are met, lies within the discretion of the court).

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  • North Carolina

    No, except that a requester who prevails in a civil suit brought pursuant to the Public Records Law may seek an award of attorney fees. The statute makes an award of attorney fees to a party winning access virtually mandatory. The court “shall” award fees unless the noncompliant public agency was following a judgment or order of a court, a published appellate opinion, or a written opinion from the attorney General. G.S. § 132-9(c).

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  • North Dakota

    If the attorney general issues a written opinion concluding that a violation has occurred, the public entity has seven days after the opinion is issued, regardless of whether a civil action is filed, to disclose the record. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.1(2). If the public entity fails to disclose the record within the seven-day period and the person requesting the opinion prevails in a civil action brought under N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2, the requestor must be awarded costs, disbursements, and reasonable attorney’s fees in the action and on appeal. Id. The consequences for failing to comply with an attorney general’s opinion also include potential personal liability for the person or persons responsible for the noncompliance. Id.

    In a civil action, the court may award declaratory relief, an injunction, a writ of prohibition or mandamus, costs, disbursements, and reasonable attorney’s fees against the entity for any violation. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2. For an intentional or knowing violation, the court may award damages in an amount equal to $1,000 or actual damages caused by the violation, whichever is greater. Id. These remedies are not available if a violation has been corrected before a civil action has been filed and no person has been prejudiced or harmed by the delay. Id. However, if the entity has previously violated the open records laws, these remedies would still be available. Id.

    Finally, the attorney general may refer to the appropriate state’s attorney any public servant who has been found in more than one opinion to have violated the open records law. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.3. A public servant who knowingly violates the open records law is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. Id.

    On the other hand, if public servants disclose public records that trigger tortious claims like defamation, they are immune from liability so long as their disclosures are pursuant to their official duties. See N.D.C.C. § 14-02-05(1); See Thompson-Widmer v. Larson, 955 N.W.2d 76, 81 (N.D. 2021).

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  • Ohio

    The act provides fixed statutory damages of $100 per business day for non-compliance with a request, so long as the request is delivered by hand-delivery or certified mail. Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(C); See, e.g., State ex rel. DiFranco v. S. Euclid, 138 Ohio St. 3d 367, 374, 7 N.E.3d 1136, 1142, 2014-Ohio-538, ¶ 28.

    Statutory damages are not punitive, but instead represent the presumptive injury suffered by a requester for lost use of the requested records—due to the public office's delay in providing them.

    A requester's eligibility for statutory damages does not begin until the day that a requester sues, so that is the first day that the public office could be liable for the $100-a-day damages. The most in statutory damages that a requester can recover for the public office's delay in providing the requested records is $1,000.

    “Stacking” of statutory damages for “essentially the same records request” is not allowed, as “no windfall is conferred by the statute.” State ex rel. Dehler v. Kelly, 127 Ohio St.3d 309, 939 N.E.2d 828, 2010-Ohio-5724.

    The statute authorizes a reviewing court to reduce statutory damages in whole or in part if it finds a person well-informed about the state of the law would conclude that the public office was complying with the current state of the law, and that nondisclosure furthered the public policy underlying whatever authority the public office relied upon in denying access to the records. Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(C)(1).

    The statute authorizes courts to award reasonable attorneys’ fees to a prevailing requester, but that award is discretionary with the court in most instances. Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(C)(3). The court must award attorneys’ fees only where the public office ignores a request without responding at all, or where the office promises to provide the requested records within a specified period of time, but breaks that promise. Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(C)(3).

    A successful litigant is not entitled to attorney fees when the work is done by in-house counsel who did not receive any compensation beyond counsel's regular salary. State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publ'g Co. v. Akron, 104 Ohio St. 3d 399, 819 N.E.2d 1087, 2004-Ohio-6557.

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  • Oklahoma

    Any willful violation may be prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office. 51 O.S. § 24A.17(A). Any person denied access to records may bring an action for declaratory and/or injunctive relief. 51 O.S. § 24A(17)(B)(1); see Lawson v. Curnutt, 2010 OK CIV APP 78, 239 P.3d 192 (a person denied access to records may bring suit for declarative or injunctive relief but the suit shall be limited to records requested and denied prior to filing the action); see also City of Broken Arrow v. Bass Pro Outdoor World, L.L.C., 2011 OK 1, 250 P.3d 305.

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  • Oregon

    Noncompliance with a public records request can result in a public body being required to pay the reasonable attorney fees of the requestor in a court action. ORS 192.431(3) requires the court to award reasonable attorney fees and costs to a requestor who prevails in a suit and allows the court to decide whether to award fees and costs (or a portion) if the requestor prevails in part.

    In addition, if a state agency fails within seven days of an Attorney General order to disclose records to either comply with the order or provide notice of intent to seek judicial review (or fails to initiate proceedings seven days thereafter), the public body will be required to pay the requestor’s reasonable attorney fees regardless of who later prevails in the suit. Id.

    Separately, tampering with public records is a criminal offense. ORS 162.305.

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  • Pennsylvania

    See Section III(D)(8)-(10) which discusses judicial remedies and fines.

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  • Rhode Island

    If a request for access to records was initially denied and a court later determines that the request should have been granted, the court has the option of reducing or waiving the statutory fees for search and/or retrieval if it determines that the information requested is in the public interest and likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-4(e); see also Direct Action for Rights and Equality v. Gannon, 819 A.2d 651 (R.I. 2003).

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  • South Carolina

    A willful violation is no longer considered a misdemeanor and subject to escalating fines and possible imprisonment for repeat offenses; however, if a court finds that a public body has arbitrarily and capriciously violated the provisions of this chapter by refusal or delay in disclosing or providing copies of a public record, the requester may be awarded actual or compensatory damages, or injunctive relief, and the public body may be fined Five Hundred Dollars. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-110

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  • South Dakota

    No specific sanctions, but there are generic criminal sanctions.

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  • Tennessee

    Yes. The Act allows for the recovery of court costs and attorney’s fees, but only if the refusal to disclose was willful. T.C.A. § 10-7-505(g).

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  • Texas

    In an action brought under Section 552.321 or 552.3215, the court "shall assess costs of litigation and reasonable attorney fees incurred by a plaintiff who substantially prevails." Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.323(a). However, a court may not assess costs and fees against a governmental body if the court finds that the governmental body acted in reasonable reliance on a judgment or court order, an appellate court decision, or a written decision of the Attorney General. Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.323. In determining awardable costs and attorney fees under § 552.324 (in a suit brought by a governmental body seeking to withhold information), the court must consider whether the conduct of the governmental body had a reasonable basis in law and whether the litigation was brought in good faith. Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.323(b).

    Section 552.351 provides that a person commits a criminal offense if the person willfully destroys, mutilates, removes without permission, or alters public information. Such an offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $4,000, or confinement in jail for not less than three days or more than three months, or both. Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.351(b).

    An officer of public information or the officer's agent commits a crime if, with criminal negligence, that person fails or refuses to give access to, or to permit or provide copying of, public information to a requestor. Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.353(a). Such a violation is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000, or confinement in jail for not more than six months, or both. Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.353(e).

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  • Utah

    A district court may enjoin any government entity or political subdivision that violates or proposes to violate GRAMA. See Utah Code § 63-2-802(1). A district court also may “assess against any governmental entity or political subdivision reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs reasonably incurred in connection with a judicial appeal of a denial of a records request if the requester substantially prevails.” Id. § 63G-2-802(2)(a). However, any claims for attorneys’ fees or for damages are subject to the Governmental Immunity Act. See id. § 63G-2-802(5). Criminal penalties also exist for certain GRAMA violations. See id. § 63G-2-801. “A public employee or other person who has lawful access to any private, controlled, or protected record” and “intentionally discloses, provides a copy of, or improperly uses” such record, with the knowledge that disclosure or use is prohibited, except as provided in Subsection 53-5-708(1)(c), is “guilty of a class B misdemeanor.” See id. § 63G-2-801(1)(a). “A person who by false pretenses, bribery, or theft, gains access to or obtains a copy of any private, controlled or protected record to which the person is not legally entitled is guilty of class B misdemeanor.” Id. § 63G-2-801(2)(a). “A public employee who intentionally refuses to release a record, the disclosure of which the employee knows is required by law, is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.” Id. § 63G-2-801(3)(a).

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  • Vermont

    None provided for by statute, although the court may award reasonable attorneys’ fees and litigation costs to a substantially prevailing complainant under § 319(d). In addition, § 320 provides that an agency employee who arbitrarily or capriciously withholds public records may be subject to disciplinary action, and that, in the event of noncompliance with a court disclosure order, the employee or official responsible for the noncompliance may be held in contempt. Section 320(c) also provides that 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.”

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  • Virginia

    A requester may seek to enforce compliance with the Act by bringing a proceeding pursuant to § 2.2-3713 seeking mandamus or an injunction. In a proceeding commenced under § 2.2-3713 against members of a public body for a violation of § § 2.2-3704, 2.2-3705.1 through 2.2-3705.7, 2.2-3706, 2.2-3706.1, 2.2-3707, 2.2-3708.2, 2.2-3710, 2.2-3711 or § 2.2-3712.The court, if it finds that a violation was willfully and knowingly made, shall impose upon such officer, employee or member in his individual capacity, whether a writ of mandamus or injunctive relief is awarded or not, a civil penalty of not less than $500 nor more than $2,000, which amount shall be paid into the State Literary Fund. For a second or subsequent violation, such civil penalty shall be not less than $2,000 nor more than $5,000. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3714. If the court finds that any officer, employee, or member of a public body altered or destroyed the requested public records with the intent to avoid the provisions of the Act prior to the expiration of the applicable record retention period set by the retention regulations promulgated pursuant to the Virginia Public Records Act (§ 42.1-76et seq.) by the State Library Board, the court may impose upon such officer, employee, or member in his individual capacity, whether or not a writ of mandamus or injunctive relief is awarded, a civil penalty of up to $100 per record altered or destroyed, which amount shall be paid into the State Literary Fund.

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  • Washington

    A requester who prevails against an agency that has denied a record must be awarded their costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees. RCW 42.56.505(4). In addition, the court must award civil penalties in an amount not to exceed $100 per day for each day that the requester was denied the right to inspect or copy a public record. Id. The factors courts apply in determining the amount of such awards are set out in Yousoufian v. Office of Ron Sims, 168 Wn.2d 444, 229 P.3d 735 (2010).

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  • West Virginia

    The FOIA was amended in 2001 to provide that "any custodian of any public records who willfully violates the provision of [FOIA] may be charged with a misdemeanor and upon conviction the custodian may be fined not less than two hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars or be imprisoned for more than twenty days, or both. W. Va. Code § 29B-1-6.

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  • Wyoming

    A knowing and intentional violation is punishable by civil penalty not to exceed $750.  Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-205.  The penalty may be recovered in a civil court action and damages may be assessed by the court.  Id.

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