Frequently Asked Questions
What is a "record"?
A record is any material on which written, drawn, printed, spoken, visual or electromagnetic information is recorded or preserved, regardless of physical form or characteristics, which has been created or is being kept by an authority in connection with official purpose or function of the agency. A record includes handwritten, typed or printed documents; maps and charts; photographs, films and tape recordings; computer tapes and printouts, CDs and optical discs; and electronic records and communications.
What is not subject to Wisconsin's Open Records Law?
There are numerous federal and state laws that exempt particular records from disclosure. Common exemptions include:
For more information on exemptions, see DOJ Compliance Outline.
Who can make an open records request?
Generally, any person may make an open records request. Wisconsin statutes limit access when the requestor is incarcerated or mentally committed to records that contain specific references to the requestor or his or her minor children. See DOJ Compliance Outline.
Do I have to identify myself when making the request?
No. Generally the requestor need not identify himself or herself; however, substantive statutes, such as those concerning student records and health records, restrict record access to certain persons. See Wis. Stat. § 19.35(1)(i).
Am I required to state the reason for my request?
No. A requester is not required to state the purpose of the request.
Can I inspect records?
Yes. Upon request, Department of Safety and Professional Services will make the requested records available to you to inspect.
Can I request copies of records?
Yes. The Department will provide copies of open records at the cost of 0.30/page. Where the request involves copying of a large volume of records, you may request copies be made by a bonded copying service in which case, if approved by the Department, the requestor would pay the rate charged by the service. See Fee schedule.
How long until I receive the requested records?
By law, open records must be provided "as soon as practicable and without delay." Wis. Stat. §19.35(4)(a). A reasonable time for response to any specific request depends on the nature of the request, the staff and other resources available to the authority to process the request, the extent of the request, and related considerations. Although the public records law does not require response within any specific time, average record requests are generally available within ten working days. See DOJ Compliance Outline.
Can I get electronic records?
Electronic records are subject to the open records law. Computer programs are not subject to the open records law, but records produced as the product of a computer program are subject to inspection and copying. A person can not require the Department to create a new record by extracting and compiling information from existing records in a new format. When information is stored in a database, a person can "within reasonable limits" request a data run to obtain the requested information. See DOJ Compliance Outline.
What is the cost of requesting records?
Department of Safety and Professional Services charges the actual, necessary and direct costs for copies of records, which are established in SPS 302.02 as follows:
Department of Safety and Professional Services may, upon request, waive the fee in whole or in part.
If you have questions about this page, contact Department of Safety and Professional Services at (DSPSPublicRecords@Wisconsin.gov)