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The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located in § 2.2-3700, et seq., of the Code of Virginia, provides to citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia and representatives of the media with circulation in or broadcasting into the Commonwealth the right to access public records of public bodies, public officials and public employees, subject to certain exemptions identified in FOIA.
A public record is any writing or recording — regardless of form (e.g., a paper record, an electronic file, an audio or video recording or any other format) — that is prepared or owned by, or in the possession of, a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business. Public records are presumed to be open and may be withheld only if a specific statutory exemption applies.
The stated purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness of governmental activities. In furtherance of this policy, FOIA requires that the law be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption from access must be interpreted narrowly.
Making a request for records from VCU
Requests for access to records may be made by U.S. mail, fax, email, in person or over the phone. FOIA does not require that a request be in writing or that FOIA be specifically referenced in the request.
- It is generally helpful to both the requester and the person at VCU receiving the request for it to be made in writing. This creates a record of the request and helps to provide a clear statement of the records being requested to avoid misunderstanding over a verbal request. However, VCU will respond to your FOIA request even if you elect to not put it in writing.
- Requests must identify the records that are being sought with “reasonable specificity.” This is a common-sense standard. It does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records that are being requested; instead, it requires that requests be specific enough to allow VCU to identify and locate the records that are being sought.
- FOIA requests must seek access to