Learn About the Freedom of Information Act
In accordance to the laws in the United States (‘Title 5 of the United States Code, Section 552’), each federal agency is accountable under the Freedom of Information Act, for the maintenance as well as dissemination of the information contained in its own database of records. For instance, similar to the other federal agencies in the country, the United States Department of Justice also has to disclose certain information under the Freedom of Information Act to any individual that sends a written request to the department. The United States Department of Justice along with the other federal agencies has the right to hold back information that falls under the three exclusions and nine exemptions of this act.
Access to Records
The Freedom of Information Act is applicable to the records held by the federal agencies. It does not have provision for the access to the records that are kept by the various courts in the country, the Congress, as well as records maintained by the local and state government agencies. Every state in the country has an additional set of laws regarding the individual’s right to access the records contained in the individual state repositories. To access the information held in the individual state repository, individuals require consulting the “public access” laws prevalent in the state concerned. For details visit: http://www.justice.gov/oip/index.html
The ‘Office of Information Policy’ of the United States Department of Justice is the main point for contact, within the executive branch. This office should be approached for seeking any advice or for any assistance or guidance on matters that deal with the Freedom of Information Act. The ‘Office of the Information Policy’ employs special counselors and advisers that are equipped to deal with any queries with regards to the Freedom of Information Act who can be contacted at: (202) 514-3642. For a detailed list containing the contact addresses, telephone numbers and fax numbers of all the various agencies as well as their departments that deal with the Freedom of Information Act, individuals can visit: http://www.justice.gov/oip/foiacontacts.htm
Before making a request on any matter pertaining to the Freedom of Information Act, it is a good idea for individuals to first browse through the sections ( ‘About the Department of Justice’, ‘Publications and Document’, ‘Press Room’ and the ‘ Reading Rooms’), that already contain details about the information that is available for the general public.
Requesting a Record
When you request for information such as details of your personal criminal history record or the records of other individuals you need to mention, "Freedom of Information Act" on the envelope in case of a written request or as the subject line, if you opt to send your request via fax.
You do not need to fill out any special forms for making a request pertaining to the Freedom of information Act but you do need to provide details such as the contact address, your name as well as a telephone number through which the department will be able to contact you during the day time. To expedite the search process, be sure to provide as much information that you can about the nature of the search, the subject of your search, the time frame of the records as well as any other details that can help the department to quickly and accurately provide the information that you require.
For each request you would require to pay a fee that can be as little as $ 25 and can go up to $ 300.
For more information please visit: http://www.justice.gov/oip/04_1.html or http://www.justice.gov/oip/referenceguidemay99.htm#intro.