The Right to Know Law RSA 91-A:4 grants all citizens the right to access public records.
This How To Guide gives you step-by-step instructions for accessing a public record by submitting a right to know request.
Before you make a request:
- Decide what records you want. Typically this is either a specific document like a report discussed at a public meeting, or it is about a specific topic such as all documents related to a subject.
- Decide if you want copies or just want to inspect the records. Please note that you if only inspect records, access to inspect the records must be done at no cost. However, they can charge you the actual cost for copies.
- For copies, decide what available format you want them in. If the document is stored electronically, then you may request electronic or paper format. If you request a format which is different from the original format of the record, you may incur costs to copy the record.
- Identify who is the custodian of the records. Typically this is the administrative office for the public body or agency like the town or school office.
- Get the contact for the record custodian.
Define your request:
- Document your request in writing.Use this template as a starting point for writing your request. Modify as required.
- Reasonably describe the records clearly. Be as specific as possible while not excluding records you may want. Be careful how you word your request as the public body is not required to ‘create’ any records or ‘compile’ data.
- Identify the time period for the records.
- Ask for an estimate of any costs beforehand.
Submit your request:
- Forward your request in writing to the custodian of the records.
- You do not need to provide any reason or justification for the request.
Receive a response from the custodian:
- If the records are immediately available you should be allowed to inspect the records immediately. If the records are not immediately available, expect a written response within 5 regular business days.
- Ask for an update if you do not receive a response in a timely manner.
- If you have not received a response to your request within 5 business days, as required by law, submit a second request noting that they are in violation of the law.
Accessing the public records:
- Make an appointment to access the records (if needed).
- Be respectful and polite.
- Ask for where you may have space to review the records.
- Treat the records with care.
- Take notes, photograph, scan, etc. the records (if needed).
- If you decide you want copies, ask for copies to be made. Ask about costs beforehand.
- Do not expect to be able to take the records out of the office to make copies elsewhere or examine them overnight.
Follow up to a request:
- If some records are not provided, ask for clarification of the response (if needed). The public body bears the burden to prove that an exemption applies for all records requested but not provided.
- Adjust the description of the records and resubmit request (if needed).