About North Carolina Public Records Law

Find FAQs about North Carolina public records law.
What is a public record?

Documents or materials made or received by a government agency in North Carolina while conducting public business.

Are only paper documents public records?

Public records include both paper and electronic documents, emails, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts, or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics.

Are drafts public records?

If drafts have been received by a government agency in the course of doing public business, they become state property and, as such, generally are considered public records.

Who may inspect or get copies of public records?

Any person has the right to inspect, examine and get copies of public records.

Which government agencies must permit inspection and furnish copes of public records?

All state agencies must permit inspection and furnish copies of public records. These agencies include all public offices, officers and officials (elected and appointed), staff members, institutions, boards, commissions, bureaus, departments, authorities and other units of government. County, city, and town governments are included.

Is there a specific procedure for requesting public records?

No. The law does not specify a procedure and there is no specific form provided in the law.

Is there a time period for government agencies to respond?

The law states inspection and examination of records should be allowed at "reasonable times" and under the supervision of the agency. Agencies are required to furnish copies "as promptly as possible." Agencies are not required to provide access for inspection or copies outside normal business hours.

Can a citizen request copies of public records in any media available?

If the agency has the capability to provide copies in different kind of media (for example, in print or on computer disk), requesters can ask for copies in any and all media available. The agency is not required to put a record in electronic form if that record is not already kept in that medium.

Must a public agency provide information in verbal form?

No. The law does not require that government agencies provide information verbally.

Must an agency create or compile a record upon request?

No. An agency is not compelled to create a record that does not already exist.

How does an agency handle records that contain confidential information?

If a record contains public and confidential information, the agency may separate or redact the confidential parts. If the entire document is confidential, the agency is not required to produce the record.

May an agency charge for public records?

Government agencies may not charge for inspection of records. Fees may be charged for copies. Fees for certifying records are to be charged as prescribed by law. (See G.S. 132-6.2b). If making the copies involves extensive clerical or supervisory assistance, the agency may charge a special service fee in addition to actual duplication costs. This service charge must be reasonable and based on actual labor costs. Agencies may also recover the costs of mailing copies.

For additional information, view NCAOC public records policies and procedures.