— NM Cops and Courts Beat Guide

IPRA, unlike FOIA, should technically come at no cost to the requester, if the requester is willing to “inspect” the documents. The Act provides four things:

  1. Agencies cannot charge for inspection. At all. Even if the agency makes a copy so that it can redact it, the agency cannot charge a requester for “inspecting” the documents.
  2. Agencies can only charge “reasonable” fees for copies.
  3. Agencies can, technically, only charge for the transmission of digital files, which is negligible, and not for the time it took to prepare the digital files.
  4. Agencies are required to give requesters “reasonable” accommodations to inspect records. This becomes important if you want to do such things as re-purposing your desktop scanner to avoid paying for copies. 14-2-7 (D).

In practice, this means there are a few options to get around agencies that want to pay exorbitant fees for documents.

  1. Use a camera to take pictures of the documents. This is especially useful when it’s a small quantity of documents because, if its hundreds of pages or more, inspection can become physically painful, depending on one’s position.
  2. Use a portable scanner with an auto document feeder. If documents are devoid of staples or if one can get the staples out of documents, portable scanners with auto document feeders, while a bit expensive, save bundles of money in the long run.
  3. Use a portable wand scanner. This is especially useful with magistrate court documents, search warrants, old court cases and personnel files, when the documents are maintained in binders and one is not allowed to take them out of those binders.
  4. Use a desktop scanner. Agencies are required to afford requesters reasonable accommodations for inspection and many private investigators, instead of buying portable scanners, just lug their actual desktop scanner into offices.
  5. For media and other digital files that custodians are unwilling to transfer onto flash drives, bring in a laptop to physically copy the media. This should fall under the category of inspection. Some records custodians will try to say that documents can only be viewed on their laptop, but this is bunk and should be immediately complained about to the AG’s office.
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