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July 22, 1998

Mr. Gary R. Gunther
56 Olive Street
Saranac Lake, NY 12983

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. Gunther:

I have received your letter of July 10 in which you complained with respect to the fee
charged by the Division of State of State Police in conjunction with your request for an
accident report. You also referred to inconsistences in charges for services by municipalities
and state agencies.

In this regard, §87(1)(b)(iii) of the Freedom of Information Law provides that
agencies can charge up to twenty-five cents per photocopy up to nine by fourteen inches or
the actual cost of reproducing other records (i.e., computer tapes or disks), unless a different
is prescribed by statute. Therefore, in the context of your comments, unless an act of the
State Legislature authorizes an agency to charge in excess of twenty-five cents per
photocopy, it would be limited to that fee.

One of the rare instances in which an agency may charge a fee different from that
generally permitted by the Freedom of Information Law relates to the situation that you
described. Specifically, §66-a of the Public Officers Law, a statute that deals with accident
reports and certain other records maintained by the Division of State Police, provides in
subdivision (2) that:

"Notwithstanding the provisions of section twenty-three
hundred seven of the civil practice law and rules, the public
officers law, or any other law to the contrary, the division of
state police shall charge fees for the search and copy of
accident reports and photographs. A search fee of fifteen
dollars per accident report shall be charged, with no additional
fee for a photocopy. An additional fee of fifteen dollars shall
be charged for a certified copy of any accident report. A fee
of twenty-five dollars per photograph or contact sheet shall be
charged. The fees for investigative reports shall be the same
as those for accident reports."

Based on the foregoing, it is clear that a statute separate from the Freedom of Information
Law authorizes the Division of State Police to charge fifteen dollars for the search and copy
of accident reports.

I note that §202 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, which pertains only to records
maintained by the Department of Motor Vehicles, contains similar provisions regarding fees
for copies of accident reports. It is emphasized, however, that a municipal police or sheriff's
department would be governed by the Freedom of Information Law and would be limited to
charging twenty-five cents per photocopy in response to a request for an accident report.

I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding of the matter and that
I have been of assistance.

Sincerely,

 

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director

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