Under FOIA, citizens of Virginia and representatives of media operating in Virginia have the following rights:
- To request to inspect or receive copies of public records, or both. Va. Code § 2.2-3704(A).
- To request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance. Va. Code § 2.2-3704(F).
- To file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with FOIA if it is believed that rights under FOIA have been violated. Va. Code § 2.2-3713.
A request for records can be made by email, fax, U.S. mail, in person or over the phone. FOIA does not require that a request be made in writing, nor does it need to specifically reference FOIA. However, to ensure that your request can be processed efficiently, your request should contain the following:
- Your request must identify the records you are seeking with "reasonable specificity." This is a common-sense standard. It does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records that you are requesting; instead, it requires enough detail to be provided so that UVA can identify and locate the records being sought.
- Your request must ask for existing records or documents. FOIA permits you to inspect or copy existing records. FOIA does not require the creation of records that do not exist, and it does not require the production of information that is not a part of records or documents.
- Your request may ask to receive electronic records in any format used by the UVA in the regular course of business. For example, if you are requesting records maintained in an Excel database, you may elect to receive those records electronically, via email, on a computer disk or printed.
FOIA requires reasonable efforts to be made between the requesting person and UVA to reach an agreement concerning the production of records. Va. Code § 2.2-3704(C). It may be necessary to discuss your request to ensure that the nature and scope of your request is fully understood. Making a FOIA request is not an adversarial process, so cooperation with the University’s efforts to clarify the type of records being sought is important.