ACCESS IN FLORIDA: THE BASICS
Access to Public Records
Florida's Public Records Law, Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes, provides that records made or received by a public agency in the course of its official business "shall at all times be open for a personal inspection by any person."
Over the years, the definition of a public record has expanded so that more than traditional written documents are covered. Records stored in computers, data processing software, tapes, photographs, film, and sound recordings are public records.
The Public Records Law provides that: "Any person willfully and knowingly violating any provisions of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree..."
Access to Public Meetings
The Open Meetings Law, Chapter 286 of the Florida Statutes, requires all meetings of state or local governmental boards or commissions to be open to the public unless there is a specific statutory exemption.
This law, also known as the Sunshine Law, permits citizens to observe the decision-making process from initial deliberations to the final vote--whether or not a quorum is present.
The Sunshine Law provides that: "Any person willfully and knowingly violating any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree..."
Access to Court Proceedings
Generally, court proceedings are open to the public. If a motion is made to close a hearing or exclude the public from a trial, you should respectfully object and assert your right to a hearing before the courtroom is closed. Request a brief continuance so that your attorney can be heard. The Florida Bar provides a comprehensive list of media resources in the Reporter's Handbook.