Q: How do I request a public record?

A:

  1. First, please determine whether the Department of Public Safety is the appropriate governmental entity which keeps the records you are seeking.
  2. Then, issue a request. The request may be made in person at the Department or in writing and submitted by e-mail, fax, or letter. When a record request is made in person, however, the custodian of the record may ask you to submit the request in writing to aid in compilation of the records. Therefore, to save time, the Department recommends that all requests be written even if the request is made in person.
  3. The request should be as clear and concise as possible to enable the custodian to respond in a timely and efficient manner.
  4. Send your request to the Department at the following address:

Department of Public Safety - Public Request
One Ashburton Place Room 1301
Boston, MA 02108

5. Wait for a reply. Under G.L. c. 66, §10, the Department must respond to your request within 10 days. However, the response will not necessarily contain the documents you requested. The Department may charge a reasonable fee pursuant to G.L. c. 66, §10. Therefore, the Department's initial response may either be an estimate of the cost to produce the documents or a written denial. A denial must provide the basis for withholding the requested materials.

6. If the response informs you that payment is required, please send a check for the specified amount payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Your request will not be processed until the Department has received your check.

Q: What types of records or documents may I request?

A: Every record made or received by the Department is presumed to be a public record. Note, however, that there are exemptions listed in the Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 4, §7. The Massachusetts General Laws may be viewed at www.mass.gov/legis.

Q: What types of documents are exempt from the public records law?

A: According to M.G.L. chapter 4, §7, there are 15 categories of documents which are exempted from disclosure under the public records law. The Department, at its discretion, may decline to provide requested documents if they fall into categories defined by section 7, clause 26, including:: a) documents specifically exempted from disclosure by statute; b) documents related solely to internal personnel rules and practices of the Department; c) personnel and medical files or information or any document relating to a specific individual the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of privacy; d) inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters relating to policy positions being developed by the Department; e) notebooks or other materials prepared by an employee which are personal to him or her; f) investigatory materials necessarily compiled out of the public view by officials the release of which is likely to prejudice effective law enforcement; g) trade secrets or financial information voluntarily provided to the Department for use in developing policy and upon a promise of confidentiality; h) questions and answers, scoring keys and sheets and other materials used to develop, administer or score a test, examination or assessment instrument; i) home address and home telephone numbers of employees of the Commonwealth or their family members; and (j) documents that have potential to impact security measures, such as blueprints, plans, policies, procedures and schematic drawings related to internal layout and structural elements of buildings, emergency preparedness, threat or vulnerability assessments and other documents related to safety and security of individuals, buildings, facilities or infrastructure Other documents not directly related to public safety may also be exempt under statute. Please see M.G.L. c. 4, §7 (26) for a complete list. The statute is available at www.mass.gov/legis.

Q: Does the request have to be in writing?

A: The request may be made in person or in writing by either e-mail, fax, or letter. The Department cannot accept public record requests by telephone. To aid in compilation of the record, the Department suggests that all requests be written, even if delivered to the Department in person.

Q: How much does it cost to request public records?

A: By law, the Department may charge 20 cents per page for photocopies and 50 cents per page for computer printouts. The Department may also charge you for the time it takes to search for records, remove any exempt data, photocopy the record, and refile it. The Department may waive the fee at its discretion. If the cost of producing the record will exceed $10, the Department will send you a written estimate of the cost. All fees must be pre-paid before the Department will forward the requested record. G.L. c. 66, §10; 950 CMR 32.06.

Q: What if I am requesting records about myself?

A: Under the public records law, every requestor is treated equally. A person who is the subject of the records is not granted any greater access rights than any other person.

Q: Does the Department have to create a record to respond to my request if one does not exist?

A: No. Pursuant to the requirements of the Public Records Law, the Department will only provide those records that are presently in its custody, either in paper form or electronically.

Q: Who oversees the public records law?

A: The Secretary of State - Public Records Division. Further information on the public records law can be found at: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/pre/prepdf/guide.pdf.