FOIA aka Freedom of Information Act
Oft times while investigating our cases we come across facts or scenarios which require further explanation and we believe additional documents might exist to assist us with our case(s). That’s where the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) comes into play. The Freedom of Information Act request allows us to obtain public records and documents from all “public bodies” within the state. A public body includes, but is not limited to, police departments, schools, and other government agencies.
The following are just a sample of the materials we uncover after sending out a FOIA: police manuals/policies, police training materials and credentials and surveillance videos.
Under the FOIA, we submit a written request to the department/agency we wish to receive the materials from. The key to drafting a FOIA is make sure you are extremely specific about what you’re looking for, otherwise you have provided a loophole for the agency to deny your FOIA for being “vague and overbroad” and believe us, most government agencies will find any loophole they can to keep these records within their agency. By specific, we mean dates, times, addresses, and alias names that may have been used in the course of making the record.
The majority of the time we receive timely responses to our FOIA’s with the exact records we were requesting, however, sometimes we receive a response that says “no such record exist” which leaves us scratching our heads and thinking “I know that cannot be true.” Hence, the appeal process begins….
Recently, our office requested documents from the Michigan State Police. The response from the Michigan State Police consisted of a single piece of paper that didn’t contain even a fraction of the information we requested, but it did reveal that what we were looking for did in fact exist. We appealed that FOIA response, and just a few days later received a letter indicating that what we want does exist, and it will be sent to us!
Additionally, just a few months ago we sent a FOIA to a police department asking for some materials, and received a response. A couple months later we sent that FOIA to the same department asking for the same materials and received a different response. Things that make you go “hmmm???”
More information regarding the Freedom of Information Act Request can be found at: http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,4534,7-164-17337_18160-51242–,00.html
Neil Rockind, P.C. never gives up a fight – whether it be in the courtroom, or during what seems like the simple task of sending off a piece of paper asking for some information. Investigating every aspect of your case is how we build a solid foundation to stand on when it’s time to go to court for you.