The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located at §2.2-3700 et. seq. of the Code of Virginia, guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to certain public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees.
A public record is any writing or recording - regardless of whether it is a paper record, an electronic file, an audio or video recording, or any other format - that is prepared or owned by, or in the possession of, a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business. All public records are presumed to be open, and may only be withheld if a specific, statutory exemption applies.
The release of information from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is also governed by the Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act (18 USC §§ 2721 through 2725) and by Va. Code §§ 46.2-208 through 214. These statutes prohibit DMV from disclosing personal, driver, and vehicle information collected in the administration of the motor vehicle laws of Virginia, unless the release of such information meets one of the conditions specified in Va. Code §§ 46.2-208 through 214 and applicable fees are paid.
- You have the right to request to inspect or receive copies of non-privileged public records, or both.
- You have the right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance.
- If you believe that your FOIA rights have been violated, you may file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with FOIA.
- You may request records by mail, fax, e-mail, in person, or over the phone. You are not required to specifically state that you are requesting records under FOIA.
- FOIA does not require you to put your request in writing; however, it may be helpful to both you and the person receiving your request to do so. Submitting your request in writing creates a record of your request. It also helps to avoid a misunderstanding over a verbal request by providing a clear statement of what records you are requesting. However, DMV cannot refuse to respond to your FOIA request if you elect to not put it in writing.
- Your request must identify the records you are seeking with "reasonable specificity." This is a common sense standard and does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records that you are requesting. Instead, reasonable specificity stipulates that you be specific enough so that we can identify and locate the records that you are seeking.
- Your request must ask for existing records or documents. FOIA gives you a right to inspect or copy records. FOIA does not apply to a situation where you are asking general questions about the work of DMV, nor does it require DMV to create a record that does not exist.
- You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by DMV in the regular course of business. For example, if you are requesting records maintained in an Excel database, you may elect to receive those records electronically, via e-mail or on a physical storage medium, or as a printed copy.
- Please cooperate with any efforts by DMV staff to clarify the type of records that you are seeking or to attempt to reach a reasonable agreement about a response to a large request. Making a FOIA request is not an adversarial process, but we may have to discuss your request with you to ensure that we understand what records you are seeking.
- Direct FOIA requests, questions about FOIA, and inquiries relating to the status of a submitted FOIA request to DMV's FOIA officer:
Shana C. Saunders
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Data Management Services
PO Box 27412
Richmond, VA 23269
Email requests: email@example.com
Telephone: (804) 482-3528
Fax number: (804) 367-0363
You can also direct questions about FOIA to The Freedom of Information Advisory Council by:
Telephone: (804) 225-3056 or [toll free] 1-866-448-4100.
- DMV must respond to your request for information within five working days of receiving it. "Day one" is considered the day after your request is received. The five-day period does not include weekends or holidays.
- You do not have to provide a reason for your FOIA request. However, FOIA does allow DMV to request your name and legal address.
- FOIA requires that DMV make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
- We provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
- We withhold all of the records that you have requested because all of the records are subject to a specific statutory exemption. If all of the records are being withheld, we must send you a response in writing. That writing must identify the volume and subject matter of the records being withheld, and state the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows us to withhold the records.
- We provide some of the records that you have requested but withhold other records. We cannot withhold an entire record if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption. In that instance, we may redact the portion of the record that may be withheld, and must provide you with the remainder of the record. We must provide you with a written response stating the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows portions of the requested records to be withheld.
- We inform you in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist (we do not have the records you want). However, if we know that another public body has the requested records, we must include contact information for the other public body in our response to you.
- If it is practically impossible for DMV to respond to your request within the five-day period, we must state this in writing and explain the conditions that make the response impossible. This will allow us seven additional working days to respond to your request, giving us a total of 12 working days to respond to your request
- If you make a request for a very large number of records, and we feel that we cannot provide the records to you within 12 days without disrupting our other organizational responsibilities, we may petition the court for additional time to respond to your request. However, DMV will make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you concerning your request for records before we go to court to ask for more time.
- A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying or searching for the requested records and shall make all reasonable efforts to supply the requested records at the lowest possible cost. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication. Prior to conducting a search for records, the public body shall notify the requestor in writing that the public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying or searching for requested records and inquire of the requester whether he would like to request a cost estimate in advance of the supplying of the requested records as set forth in subsection F of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.
- If we estimate that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, we will require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with a response. We will advise you of any anticipated cost that will exceed $200 even if you do not ask for an estimate in advance. The five days that we have to respond to your request does not include the time between when we ask for a deposit and when you respond.
- You may request that we estimate in advance the charges for supplying the records that you have requested. This will allow you to know about any costs upfront, or give you the opportunity to modify your request in an attempt to lower the estimated costs.
- If you owe DMV money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, DMV may require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.
- DMV has set fees for standard requests which can be viewed on the DMV Fee Chart (DMV 201).
- For requests for records not listed on the fee chart, fees are assessed based on the hours of personnel time needed to provide a full set of responsive records, which includes searching for, reviewing, and redacting if needed. An administrative hourly rate is used in most cases. However, if the request can only be completed by a specific employee, that individual employee's hourly rate is used to assess the fee. DMV's current administrative hourly rate is $19.51.
- If you would like the records you request printed and mailed to you, a $0.10 per page fee will be added to the cost listed above. If shipping is required, the actual amount of the shipping cost will be added to the fee as well. There is no additional fee for records produced electronically.
Types of Records Maintained by DMV
DMV maintains a wide variety of public records including, but not limited to:
- Policies and procedures related to the agency's administration of motor vehicle and tax-related laws
- Driver records
- Vehicle records
- Motor Carrier records
- Records related to license plates
- Fuels Tax records
- Rental Tax records
- Records related to Hauling Permits
- Records regarding Salvage and Non-repairable Vehicles
- Records regarding Motor Vehicle Accidents and Crash Data
- Records regarding contracts entered into by DMV
- Records related to DMV financial and budgetary information
- Records regarding Highway Safety programs
- Records related to DMV procurements
- Personnel records concerning employees and officials of DMV
Please note that all or part of some of the records in this list are exempt from public disclosure, as is more fully explained in the following section discussing common exemptions to FOIA requests.
The Code of Virginia allows DMV to withhold certain records from public disclosure. The DMV commonly withholds records subject to exemptions provided in the following statutes:
- The Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act 18 USC §§ 2721-2725
- Virginia Code §§ 46.2-208 through 46.2-214
- Those records exempted from FOIA requests by Virginia's FOIA statutes, § 2.2-3700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia, including but not limited to:
- Personnel records, § 2.2-3705.1(1)
- Records subject to attorney-client privilege, § 2.2-3705.1 (2) or attorney work product, § 2.2-3705.1 (3)
- Vendor proprietary information, § 2.2-3705.1 (6)
- Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded, § 2.2-3705.1 (12)
To provide feedback to the Freedom of Information Advisory Council regarding the quality of assistance you were provided by any public body, click here to download the FOIA Council Requester Public Comment Form. Additionally. below are links to the FOIA Council website.