Freedom of Information Act Requests

Known to many as “FOIA” (often pronounced “foy-ya”), the Freedom of Information Act is a powerful tool that is open to all members of the public. Since 1967, Freedom of Information Act requests have obtained records from federal agencies. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. Federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine exemptions which protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement.

The Illinois Freedom of Information Act, first enacted in 1984, is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Illinois.

Tips

  • Know what you want
    • Before making a request, check to see if the information you are interested in is already publicly available.
  • Do it your way
    • There is no special form required to file a FOIA request, but good formatting can help agencies quickly and efficiently respond with your requested information (see page XX).
  • Be precise
    • Many FOIA offices are understaffed and often operate from a backlog. Straightforward, single-issue requests will likely be answered more quickly than multi-faceted or unclear requests.
  • Practice makes perfect
    • There are currently one hundred agencies subject to the FOIA with several hundred offices that process FOIA requests. Make sure you send your FOIA to the right department by searching for that department’s FOIA representative and/or mailing location.
  • Waive that fee
    • There is no initial fee required to submit a FOIA request, but the FOIA does provide for the charging of certain types of fees in some instances. You may request a fee waiver in any case.

Adapted from FOIA.gov

FOIA Request Template

Re: Freedom of Information Act Request

This request is being made under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request that a copy of the documents described below be provided to me:

[Describe your requested documents here]

In regard to the assessment of fees, I would like to let you know that this request is being made for [noncommercial OR scholarly] uses. Therefore, I request a waiver of all fees as providing this information is in the public interest.

[alternative text]: I am willing to pay fees of up to $__ for this request. If you expect fees to be assessed and exceed this amount, please let me know before filling the request.

[Your name]