What is the PIA?

The PIA grants you the right to review available records that are disclosable and to obtain copies of those records. A public record is defined as the original or copy of any documentary material in any form created or received by an agency in connection with the transaction of public business. Included in this definition are written materials, books, photographs, photocopies, films, microfilms, records, tapes, computerized records, maps, drawings and other materials.

However, some public records are confidential under federal or state statutes, under court rules, or under various common law privileges such as attorney-client privilege and executive privilege, and are therefore not releasable under the PIA. In addition, the County has the right to withhold records if it is determined that disclosure of those records would be “contrary to the public interest."

Note, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applies only to agencies of the U.S. government, not to State and local agencies.

Submitting a PIA Request
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How do I submit a PIA request to the County?
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All PIA request to Howard County Government must be submitted in writing, either via letter or email, to the Office of Public Information (PIO) EXCEPT for those requests that SOLELY seek records from the Howard County Police Department (HCPD) or Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFRS). If you seek records from HCPD and/or HCDFRS, as well as other Howard County Government departments, you'll want to submit your request to PIO. 

In your request, it is important that you specifically describe the precise records you seek so that the County can thoroughly research your request. Please be sure to provide all necessary contact information as further discussions may be necessary to clarify your request.

To submit a request to PIO, please either email [email protected] or mail the request to: Office of Public Information, Attn: Mark Miller, Administrator, 8930 Stanford Boulevard, Columbia, MD 21045. Additional contact information for PIO can be found online or by calling 410-313-2022.

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I solely seek police records, how do I submit a PIA request to HCPD?
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If you ONLY seek records from Howard County Police Department (HCPD), and no other Howard County Government department, you will need to contact HCPD directly. To submit a request for records solely to HCPD, either email [email protected] or mail the request to: Howard County Police Department, Attn: Records Section, 3410 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043. Additional contact information for HCPD can be found online or by calling 410-313-2250.

Please note, if you are simply looking to obtain a copy of an existing police report (crime, accident and/or 911 recording), details on how to do so can be found on HCPD's Online Resources website

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I solely seek fire records, how do I submit a PIA request to HCDFRS?
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If you ONLY seek records from the County's Department of Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFRS), and no other Howard County Government department, you will need to contact HCDFRS directly. To submit a request for records solely to HCDFRS, either visit HCDFRS's website for instructions or mail: Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, Public Information Officer, 2201 Warwick Way, Marriottsville, MD, 21104. Additional contact information for HCDFRS can be found online or by calling 410-313-6000.

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How do I submit a request to the Howard County Health Department?
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The Howard County Health Department (HCHD) is a State agency despite its name and as such, is the custodian of its own records. For instructions on how to submit a PIA request to the HCHD, visit its website

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How do I submit a request to the Howard County Council?
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As the legislative branch of Howard County Government, the Howard County Council is the custodian of its own records. To request records maintained by the County Council, you'll need to submit a PIA request to the Council's Public Information Officer. Contact information for the Council's Public Information Officer, and the County Council, can be found the County Council's website.

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Response time and cost.
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Upon receipt of your request, the County has up to 10 working days to respond, unless we notify you in writing or by email within that time period that additional time is required for us to respond. Under the PIA, Howard County has the right to charge for search time exceeding two hours as the first two are free; this fee is based on the hourly salary of the individual(s) carrying out the search. In addition, while the County has the right to charge a copying fee of $0.25 per page for a black and white paper copy, as mentioned on page 10 of Howard County Council Resolution No. 71-2020, if electronic copies of the responsive records exist, they are free of charge. However, per page 10 of the Council Resolution, when an electronic response, or portion therefore, is too large to send electronically, PIO shall convert the response, or portion thereof, to paper, CD, DVD or flash drive, as the requestor specifies. The cost of a CD/DVD is $10 per disk and a flash drive is $20 per drive. 

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More information on the PIA.
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For more information on the PIA, visit Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General website.

Tags
FOIA
Maryland Public Information Act
PIA
Records

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