Journalist's Guide

Maryland Public Information Act Caution: The Public Information Act contains many nuances that may not appear in this summary. This guide provides a quick reference to general principles of the Act. For the most current information and details regarding the provisions and nuances of the Act and the entities to which it applies, please refer to the Open Government website maintained by the Maryland Attorney General at Title 16 of the Maryland Rules expressly controls access to court records and where a conflict occurs between the PIA statutes and those Rules, the Rules control. Basic elements of the Public Information Act The public's right to information about government activities lies at the heart of a democratic government. Maryland's Public Information Act (PIA) grants the people of this state a broad right of access to public records while protecting legitimate governmental interests and the privacy rights of individual citizens. Requests for public records always begin with a government agency (state, county, or municipal). See the General Information and FAQ's section of the Attorney General’s website listed above for additional guidance. The PIA gives the public the right to access government records without unnecessary cost and delay. The PIA applies to all three branches of Maryland state government as well as local government entities. The PIA is found in the General Provisions Article (“GP”), §§ 4-101 through 4-601, Annotated Code of Maryland. It is similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act, which applies to federal executive branch agencies and independent federal regulatory agencies. The PIA grants you the right to review the available records that are disclosable and to obtain copies of those records. It does not require an agency to answer informational questions or to create a record to satisfy your request. A “public record” is defined as the original or copy of any documentary material in any form created or received by an agency in connection with the transaction of public business. Included in this definition are written materials, books, photographs, photocopies, firms, microfilms, records, tapes, computerized records, maps, drawings, and other materials. Anyone can submit a PIA request, but not all government records are available. The PIA attempts to balance the public’s right to access government records with other policies that respect the privacy or confidentiality of certain information. For example, some public records are confidential under federal or state statutes, under court rules or under various common law privileges such as attorney-client privilege and executive privilege. The PIA itself also protects certain records from disclosure, including adoption records, personnel records, and certain personal information in Motor Vehicle Administration records. In addition, some information contained in public records must remain confidential, including an individual’s medical


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