Public Records Access, Data Security, and Privacy in Idaho

Public Records Access, Data Security, and Privacy in Idaho

The Idaho Public Records Act is a law that was passed to grant citizens of the state access to public records and government documents. The law was passed in 1990 and outlines the steps that public bodies and government agencies within the state must follow in terms of ensuring that citizens of the state can request access to their public records and documentation without hassle or error. Subsequently, the law also sets forth the steps and procedures that Idaho citizens must abide by when looking to be granted access to the public records of particular government institutions within the state, as well as the public records that are exempt from such access.

How is a public record defined under the law?

Under the Idaho Public Records Act, a public record is defined as “any writing containing information relating to the conduct or administration of the public’s business prepared, owned, used or retained by any state agency, independent public body corporate and politic or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics. Provided, however, that personal notes created by a public official solely for his own use shall not be a public record as long as such personal notes are not shared with any other person or entity.” Alternatively, as it concerns the scope and application of the law, the Idaho Public Records Act states that “all agencies that are considered part of the government of Idaho, including both state and local agencies, are covered, with the exception of the state militia.”

What are the rights of Idaho citizens under the law?

The Idaho Public Records Act grants citizens of the state numerous rights as it pertains to the accessibility of certain public records and government documentation. These rights include:

  • Citizens have the right to access, copy, and inspect all of the public records that a particular government or state agency maintains, during the regular office hours of said agency.
  • Citizens have the right to take photographs, as well as make copies of any public records that they have been granted access to.
  • While citizens have the right to request access to public records that contain personally identifiable information or confidential, state agencies have an obligation to redact such information from these records prior to disclosing them to a citizen. However, state agencies must also provide citizens with a rationale for any redacted information.
  • Citizens have the right to receive a response from a state agency in regard to their request to access the public records and documentation of said agency within three business days.
  • Citizens have the right to obtain a copy of a state agency’s public records or documentation in a medium of their choosing.
  • Citizens have the right to access the information and resources necessary to aid them in copying or inspecting the public records or documentation of a state agency.

What public records are exempt from disclosure under the law?

Some of the public records and government documentation that are exempt from public disclosure in accordance with the various sections of the Idaho Public Records Act include but are not limited to:

  • Juvenile records.
  • Income tax information.
  • Prisoner records.
  • Voter registration cards.
  • Law enforcement investigations.
  • Trade secrets.
  • Academic research.
  • Education records.
  • Healthcare records.
  • Worker’s compensation records.
  • Draft legislation records.
  • Archeological records.
  • Personally identifiable information.

What are the penalties for failing to comply with the law?

With respect to the punishments that state and government agencies face should they fail to comply with the provisions of the law, the Idaho Public Records Act establishes numerous penalties that can be imposed against both individuals and institutions that are found to be in violation of the law. Most notably, a state agency within Idaho that is found to have violated the law is subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000, as well as associated costs and attorney fees. In contrast to many other states, the Idaho Public Records Act is not enforced by the state attorney general, and aggrieved parties must instead look to the state court system to remedy any infractions of the law that may occur.

With the rights that are afforded to citizens under the Idaho Public Records Act, said citizens have some means by which to hold their elected local and state government officials accountable for their deeds and actions. To this point, while some public records and government documentation will be exempt from disclosure under the law, citizens of Idaho are still permitted to access a wide range of information pertaining to the manner in which their state government institutions function. In this way, they can seek a greater level of transparency between themselves and the officials they have elected to serve them.