Freedom of Information Act Explained In Simple English

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Freedom of Information Act Explained In Simple English

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a federal law dating back to 1966, served as a great example for numerous similar state acts across the USA. The meaning of the FOIA is based on the transparency of the government. Such a law helps people gain insight into the federal agencies’ activities and be better informed in general.

Our guide will focus on the purpose of a FOIA guide and explain why such a resource is irreplaceable when submitting FOIA requests for public information.

What Is a FOIA Guide?

Each U.S. state has a specific FOIA handbook. It’s a manual that contains the essential explanations and procedures related to the state-specific FOIA laws.

What Does the FOIA Manual Contain?

The contents of FOIA guides depend on how thorough the state is. Some guides hardly have ten or 20 pages, while others—Florida’s Sunshine Law manual, for example—have more than 300 pages.

All guides follow a basic outline, which includes the fundamental information on the particular freedom of information laws. The table below represents an example of the structure:



  • Definitions
  • Explanations of unknown terms

Public records

  • Types of public records
  • Agencies that provide public information
  • Categories of requesters who can ask to access public records on themselves or someone else

FOIA exemptions

  • Types and details of all existing exemptions

FOIA requests

  • Content of the request
  • Purpose of the request
  • Request response time
  • Appeal procedures—if applicable
  • Criteria for request denials or approvals
  • Instructions for checking the status of your request
  • Request submission methods—by fax, mail, phone, email, online forms, etc.
  • Fees the chosen agency charges you for accessing, examining, and copying the necessary records


Who Can Use the FOIA Guide?

Anyone can use the FOIA manual, but it’s particularly useful for people who are planning to request public records for various purposes. The most common requesters are:

  • Journalists
  • TV reporters
  • Commercial intermediaries
  • People who are planning to file lawsuits
  • Sellers who want to pinpoint their target groups
  • People who want to locate someone or verify someone’s identity

Benefits of the FOIA Guide

Without FOIA guides, it would be difficult to understand all the essentials of the law in question. They are better than all the blogs and articles you can find on the internet because they:

  1. Can be verified—A FOIA handbook is an official document, which means that all the information it contains must be true
  2. Are available online—Each state has a specific FOIA PDF manual, which is available to everyone with internet access
  3. Provide complete information—FOIA guides are usually detailed, and they contain the entire lists of rules and stipulations of the state FOIA variation
  4. Simplify the complicated parts of the law—FOIA manuals are simpler than the original text of the Act. That makes them more approachable to the general public

How Can I Benefit From DoNotPay When Submitting a FOIA Request?

FOIA handbooks are practical, but they can be less understandable to people who don’t know much about law. Future requesters can easily get confused in the vast sea of information and make wrong steps while submitting their FOIA requests.

If you can’t cope with the instructions from the manual, DoNotPay brings some great news. Our advanced AI system saves you time and money by composing a FOIA request in your stead. Forget about contacting the agency directly or writing the petition on your own—we do all the work!

To send a FOIA request using our service, open DoNotPay in your and proceed as follows:

  1. Find our FOIA feature by using keywords such as FOIA, public records, Freedom of Information Act, etc.
  2. Tell us whether you are demanding public information from a state or federal institution
  3. Disclose the name of the institution and provide more details on the records—titles, authors, descriptions, etc.
  4. Pick the format and specify whether you want a fee waiver or an expedited process

We will use all the details provided to create a request letter and submit it to the institution as soon as possible.

Use Our App To Send Multiple FOIA Requests Safely and Efficiently

is a great way to find out more about FOIA laws in any state, including Texas, Arkansas, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and West Virginia.

Does requesting Navy, Army, or Air Force records seem complicated? We can help with our easy-to-follow guides! Our extensive knowledge base provides practical tips for requesting the necessary records from:

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