Massachusetts Public Records: What You Need to Know

As a citizen of Massachusetts, you have the right to access public records maintained by the state government. The Massachusetts Public Records Law grants the public access to most records created or received by any state agency, department, board, commission, or authority, including the judiciary and the legislature. This article will provide you with an overview of Massachusetts public records, how to access them, and what information is exempted from disclosure.

What are Public Records?

Public records are defined under the Massachusetts Public Records Law as any documentary materials or data created or received by a state agency, including paper records, electronic records, and audio or video recordings. Some examples of public records include police reports, court records, meeting minutes, budgets, and contracts. These records are considered to be the property of the public, and as such, the public has the right to access them.

How to Request Public Records?

To request public records in Massachusetts, you can either submit a written request to the appropriate state agency or submit a request through the online portal of the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Public Records Division. When making a request, be as specific as possible about the records you are seeking, including the timeframe, subject matter, and any other identifying information that can help expedite the search process.

The state agency has ten business days to respond to your request, and they can either provide you with the records, deny your request, or ask for an extension. If your request is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision to the Supervisor of Public Records, who will review the agency’s decision and determine whether it was in compliance with the law.

Exemptions to Public Records

While most public records are available to the public, some information is exempt from disclosure under Massachusetts law. Some examples of exempted information include personal information about individuals, such as social security numbers, medical records, and financial information. Law enforcement records related to ongoing investigations, trade secrets, and privileged attorney-client communications are also exempt from disclosure.

Conclusion

Access to public records is a fundamental right that allows citizens to hold their government accountable and make informed decisions. In Massachusetts, the Public Records Law provides access to most records created or received by state agencies, except for certain exempted information. If you are interested in obtaining public records in Massachusetts, be sure to follow the proper procedures and respect the exemptions to the law.