February 23, 1995
Ms. June Maxam
The North Country Gazette
Chestertown, NY 12817
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 Ms. Maxam:
I have received your letter of January 25 in which you complained with respect to the fees assessed by the Department of Motor Vehicle for copies of records.
In this regard, as you are aware, the Freedom of Information Law generally authorizes an agency to charge up to twenty-five cents per photocopy when it prepares copies of records. Ordinarily an agency cannot charge a higher fee or a fee for search or other administrative functions. The only instance in which agencies may charge higher or different fees involves those cases in which such fees are authorized by statutes other than the Freedom of Information Law [see Freedom of Information Law, §87(1)(b)(iii)].
One such statute, which pertains solely to the Department of Motor Vehicles, is §202 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. Subdivision (2) of §202 is entitled "Fees for searches of records" and states in part that: "The fee for a search which is made manually by the department shall be five dollars". Additionally, subdivision (3), entitled "Fees for copies of documents", provides that:
"The fees for copies of documents, other than accident reports, shall be one dollar per page. A page shall consist of either a single or double side of any document. The fee for a copy of an accident report shall be fifteen dollars. All copies of documents shall be certified at no additional fee. Whenever search of records of the department is required in conjunction with a request for a copy of a document, the fee for such search shall be the fee provided in paragraph (a) of subdivision two of this section. The result of such search will be the locating of the document to be copied, or if no document can be located, a certification to that effect will be the result of the search."
Based on the foregoing, the Department of Motor Vehicles may assess fees, pursuant to a statute, that exceed fees that could be charged if the Freedom of Information Law applied.
I hope the foregoing serves to enhance your understanding of the matter and that I have been of some assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Alexandra Sussman