January 20, 1998
Mr. Jeffrey H. Greenfield
5 Huber court
Rockville Centre, NY 11570
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue
advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the
information presented in your correspondence.
Dear Mr. Greenfield:
I have received your letter of December 10 in which you questioned
the fee of five dollars charged by the New York State Department of Motor
Vehicles when you sought to obtain a record. You added that it is your
"understanding of the Freedom of Information Law that there is no down
payment or up front fee required when requesting information, and that the
fee is .25 per page to cover the cost of copying."
In this regard, section 87(1)(b)(iii) of the Freedom of Information Law
authorizes an agency to charge up to twenty-five cents per photocopy, unless
a different statute authorizes a different fee. In this instance, a statute other
than the Freedom of Information Law applies and, therefore, would supersede
the Freedom of Information Law. Specifically, section 202 of the Vehicle and
Traffic Law pertains to records maintained by the Department of Motor
Vehicles pursuant to the Vehicle and Traffic Law. Enclosed is an excerpt
from that provision indicating that the Department is authorized to charge fees
different from and in excess of those that could be charged under the Freedom
of Information Law.
It is also noted that an agency may ask for payment in advance of
producing copies when a request is made under the Freedom of Information
Law (see e.g., Sambucci v.McGuire, Sup. Ct, New York City., Nov. 4, 1982).
I hope that the foregoing serves to enhance your understanding of the
matter and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman