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How FOIA changed in 2017

​Public officials and employees must stay abreast of the latest changes to the S.C. Freedom of Information Act. H3352 became law in May, ushering an assortment of changes to the process of requesting and producing documents under the law. Here are few areas where the law has changed:

Electronic versions
Specifies that an individual has the right to request and receive a public record by electronic transmission. However, the law now expressly states that a public body is not required to create an electronic version of a public record where one does not exist.

Limits a deposit to no more than 25 percent of the reasonably anticipated cost for reproduction of the records. The law specifically requires that any balance must be paid at the time of production. Before H3352 passed, a records custodian could charge a "reasonable" deposit before searching for and making copies of records.

Reduces from 15 to 10 business days the time a public body has to respond to a written FOIA records request. If a requested record is more than 24 months old, the deadline is 20 business days. The public body is not required to provide notice of redactions during this initial response period.

Protecting the public
Requires local governments and political subdivisions to provide notice of the prohibition against using the personal information for commercial solicitation. They must take reasonable steps against improper access. The law does not specify what steps must be taken, but the public body's attorney should determine how this required notice should be given to those requesting information. This sample language could, for example, be included in the public body's initial response or included in a form the requesting party completes when the request is fulfilled: "S.C. law provides that it is a crime to knowingly obtain or use personal information from a public body for commercial solicitation."

Circuit court relief
Allows a public body to request a hearing with the circuit court for relief from unduly burdensome, overly broad, vague, repetitive or otherwise improper requests. Public body may also request a hearing when it is unable to make a good faith determination regarding information's exemption from disclosure.