Freedom of Information Act
You are entitled to the inspection and/or production of any public record, defined as “information of any kind, owned, made, used, retained, received, produced, composed, drafted, or otherwise compiled or collected, by any public body, relating in any way to public business, or in any way of public interest, or in any way related to public purposes, regardless of the physical form or characteristic by which such information is stored, recorded, or reproduced.”
Given this broad definition, FOIA is intended to cover any document, regardless of form, that pertains to government business.
FOIA and Use Payments
Customers can pay FOIA and Use Permit fees using a credit card with the link below. The application and/or permit number is required to process this payment.
Exceptions to the Act
There are several exceptions to public disclosure that include, but are not limited to:
- Any personnel, medical, or pupil file where the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy. Any records specifically exempted from public disclosure by statute or common law; such as unique identifiers, including a person’s social security number, driver’s license number, employee identification number, biometric identifiers, personal financial information, passwords or other access codes, medical records, home or personal telephone numbers, home addresses, and personal email addresses.
- Investigatory files compiled for civil or criminal law enforcement purposes, including:
- Pending investigative files, pretrial and pre-sentence investigations, and child custody and adoption files where there is no criminal complaint at issue
- Investigative files compiled or maintained by the Violent Crimes Compensation Board
- Intelligence files compiled for law-enforcement purposes, the disclosure of which could constitute an endangerment to the local, state or national welfare and security
- Criminal files and criminal records, the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy
- Any records which disclose the identity of the contributor of a bona fide and lawful charitable contribution to the public body whenever public anonymity has been requested of the public body, with respect to said contribution by the contributor:
- Any records which disclose the identity or address of any person holding a permit to carry a concealed deadly weapon
- Any records of a public library which contain the identity of a user and the books, documents, films, recordings, or other property of the library which a patron has used
- Business trade secrets or commercial or financial information that is proprietary, privileged, or confidential, and disclosure would cause competitive harm to the person or business.
- Additional records, such as:
- Any records involving labor negotiations or collective bargaining
- Any records pertaining to pending or potential litigation which are not records of any court
- Any military service discharge document or documents, such as a discharge, separation notice, certificate of service, report of transfer, or discharge, or any other notice or document which is evidence of severance or transfer from military service
Privacy Considerations for FOIA Requests
If a record contains information that is exempt from disclosure under FOIA, a public body can remove or black out that exempt information from the public records. This is called redaction. However, the public body must produce the remaining information. The county will redact information not subject to FOIA and/or protected by privacy laws or legal privilege.
Requests that do not adequately describe the document or file sought, or that require the county to do research not specified by the Freedom of Information Act, will be returned to the applicant. Any requests that are rejected will be returned with an explanation outlining why New Castle County Government did not provide the records.
Receiving Your Request
The county will respond to your request within 10 business days, except when:
- There is a need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request
- There is a need to search for, collect, and examine a excessive amount of separate and distinct records
- There is a need for consultation, which shall be conducted with practicable speed, with another agency or agency counsel
- There is a need to redact information not provided by FOIA and/or protected by privacy laws or legal privilege
Steps to Take When Your Request is Denied
When a local government body refuses to provide requested information, the petitioner may ask the Department of Justice to determine whether that body violated FOIA in its refusal. The Department of Justice may conduct an investigation, issue a written FOIA Opinion stating its conclusions in the matter, and may even file a lawsuit on the petitioner's behalf to compel the release of the requested information.