Your FOIA rights
- To request to inspect and/or receive copies
- To request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance
- To file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance if you believe that your FOIA rights have been violated
How to Make a Request
Download a hard-copy form, complete it, then submit it in one of these ways:
- Mail: FOIA Officer, 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 302, Arlington, VA 22201
- Fax: 703-228-3218
- Email: CMOFOIA@arlingtonva.us
- In person: 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 302, Arlington, VA 22201
Call for more information: 703-228-3120
What You Can Expect
A response within five working days. Arlington County will do one of the following:
- Provide the records requested in their entirety.
- Withhold all of the records requested, because they are subject to a specific statutory exemption. If records are withheld, you will receive a written explanation identifying the volume and subject matter of the records withheld and the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows the exemption.
- Provide some of the records requested, but withhold others. An entire record will not be withheld if only a portion is subject to exemption. You will receive a written response stating the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows exemption of a portion of the records.
- Respond in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist. However, if another public body has the requested records, contact information will be included in the response.
- If Arlington County cannot respond to a request within the five-day period, you will be informed in writing with an explanation as to why. This allows the County seven additional working days to respond, providing a total of 12 working days.
If someone requests a very large number of records, and we determine it cannot be filled within 12 working days without disrupting other County organizational responsibilities, the County may petition the court for additional time. However, FOIA requires that a reasonable effort be made to reach an agreement concerning the production of the records before going to the court.
- If the estimated cost is more than $200, a deposit may be required (not to exceed the amount of the estimate), before the County proceeds with your request. The five days allowed the County for a response does not include the time between a request for a deposit and a response from the requestor.
- Cost covers items such as staff time, copying or any other resources directly related to supplying the requested records. It does not include general overhead.
- If requested, an estimate of the charges will be provided prior to supplying the records requested.
- If money is owed from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, Arlington County may require payment of the past-due bill before responding to a new FOIA request.
General Guidelines for Requests
- You must identify the records needed with reasonable specificity. This does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records requested; instead, it requires that a request be specific enough to identify and locate records.
- You must ask for existing records or documents. FOIA allows for inspection or copying of records; it does not require the County to answer general questions about the work of the department involved, nor does it require the department to create a record that does not exist.
- Records can be provided in the format in which they were created.
- For example, if you’re requesting records maintained in an Excel database, you may elect to receive those records electronically, via email or on a computer disk, or to receive a printed copy of those records. Records created by hand can only be provided in print.
- You may be contacted if there are questions.
The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. Arlington County government commonly withholds records subject to exemptions such as:
- Personnel records
- Records subject to attorney-client privilege
- Vendor proprietary information
- Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded
- Security matters
About Freedom of Information Act
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – located in § 2.2-3700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia – guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials and public employees. The purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness and transparency of government activities and afford residents an opportunity to witness the operations of government.
A public record is any writing or recording – regardless of whether it is a paper record, an electronic file, an audio or video recording or any other format – that is prepared, owned by or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business.