According to North Carolina’s public records law, N.C.G.S. 132, the people of North Carolina have a right to inspection of public records. N.C.G.S. 132-1(b) states, “Therefore, it is the policy of this State that the people may obtain copies of their public records and public information free or at minimal cost unless otherwise specifically provided by law.”
To field requests for inspection, municipalities and counties use a Public Records Request Form, such as the example here. The Form is handy for tracking completion of requests, compiling statistics (i.e., number of requests per year), and getting the specific details of the public records request, such as the type and dates of the requested records.
The Form can include:
- The requester’s name and contact information, though it is recommended that these be made optional, as a person may be more comfortable making a request without self-identification.
- A fee schedule for copies. According to N.C.G.S. 132-6.2(b), any fee for an uncertified copy of a public record cannot exceed the actual cost of making the copy. Thus, the fee usually approximates the cost of the sheet of copy paper. Many municipalities and counties make public records available as PDFs, which are emailed to the requester at no charge, so long as the requester has an email address.
- Details of when and where public records can be inspected.
- An explanation of the redaction of confidential information.
- Citations to relevant statutes.
Some municipalities and counties take online public records requests using web-based forms:
A person still has the right to inspect public records or receive copies of public records even if the person does not fill out the Public Records Request Form or only partially fills it out. Also, a person cannot be refused the inspection of public records because that person does not have an email address and cannot receive PDFs. The public records must be provided in any format that is available to the local government.