Here are some tips on how to make a successful public records request through Sunshine Request


Before submitting a request

  • Please take a moment to review our FAQs.
    This may help answer some of your initial questions and let you know what to expect before you submit a request.
  • Sunshine Request is an anonymous platform.
    Sunshine Request (www.sunshinerequest.com) is an anonymous platform we built for submitting public records requests. The name of our site was inspired by a quote from Louis Brandeis.

    We do not require any personal info to be submitted in order for our team to be able to process the requests. This means we are not able to verify who submits a request, and we also do not send the results of requests directly to individuals. We publish the results of all completed requests on our website.

    If you have questions about our website, please check out our FAQs. Please email all media inquiries (requests for filming or press), or any additional questions about our website, to Sunshine Request’s team at [email protected].

    Please do not use the public records request form on our website or other methods of communication to contact us about questions related to Sunshine Request. We will not review or respond to these submissions.

    There are certain types of requests that we will not process, and certain records that we will not publish on www.sunshinerequest.com. We reserve the right to reject or remove requests, based on our own policies and judgement.

    Sunshine Request makes no claim as to the veracity of any statements or information contained in any of the request messages, or public records results, we receive.

  • Please take a moment to review our Request Policies:
    There are certain types of requests that we will not process, and certain records that we will not publish on www.sunshinerequest.com. We reserve the right to reject or remove requests, based on our own policies and judgement.

    Before submitting a request, please review the list of requests we will not fulfill. If any aspect of your request falls into these categories, we may decline to process your request or remove it from the site. If your request is denied, please feel free to revise and resubmit your request, following our tips on this page.


Sunshine Request policies

Note: Policies are subject to change. Last updated 12/09/2019

Sunshine Request will not fulfill the following types of requests:

  • Requests for public safety information specific to a single individual, address, incident or name.
    This includes police reports, calls for service, complaints / incident reports / citations, criminal / arrest type records, or camera footage. We will, on a case by case basis, fulfill public safety related requests that focus on system-level trends and data.

    For example, we will not fulfill:

    “I would like to request all APD calls for service at 123 AVL Sunshine Street from 11/11/01 – 12/01/01.”

    For example, we will not fulfill:

    “I would like to request all arrest records and video footage of a traffic stop at [X address or area] involving [X person] on 11/11/01.”

    Due to the personal nature of this type of information, we recommend that the sender reach out directly to the appropriate entity for assistance with the request.

  • Requests listing the possible “sender’s” name or other contact information in the request subject or message.
    We do not require any personal info to be submitted in order for our team to be able to process the requests. This means we are not able to verify who submits a request, and we also do not send the results of requests directly to individuals. We publish the results of all completed requests on our website.
  • Requests related to the functioning of Sunshine Request, or requests about individual members of the Sunshine Request team.
    Due to our limited resources, as well as the volume of requests we regularly process on our site, we do not fulfill requests about Sunshine Request or members of our team. Please feel free to review our FAQs.

    If you have additional questions about Sunshine Request, you can contact our team at [email protected].

  • Requests that include profanity, personal statements, opinions, possibly defamatory statements, or other unnecessary info that is not relevant to making a records request.
    Please do not include any profanity in the request’s Subject or Message. The request will not be published.

    Blatantly defamatory statements will not be published.

    Please do not include personal opinions and statements in the request’s Subject or Message. Please omit any extraneous statements that are not specific to the exact information you’d like to receive. This is not relevant information pertinent to the processing of a records request, and the request will not be published.

    For example, we will not publish:

    Message: “I have felt for years that [X government entity or person] has committed a crime when they lied about [X subject matter] in 2001. It is well documented in the news now that [X government entity or person] is corrupt, and I’d like to make a records request for all emails sent to and from [X and X government officials] from 11/11/01 – 12/11/01 related to [X topic].

  • Requests that are incomplete, non-specific, or vague.
    Before submitting a request, please take a moment to review our tips for How to make a request.

    While we do proofread requests we receive for general spelling and clarity, we may choose not to fulfill the request if it is incomplete, or it is unclear what specific information the requester hopes to receive. In this case, the sender may rewrite and resubmit the request.

  • Requests that are only informational questions, and requests that are not addressed to government entities.
    Sunshine Request is a site built to make requests for public records to the government — Public records are recorded information such as documents, government emails, and data sets.

    In the interest of preserving our team’s time to focus on the high volume of requests on our site, as well to respect the staff time of government entities fulfilling records requests, Sunshine Request will no longer fulfill “requests” that are just informational type questions for government entities to answer.

    We also will not fulfill requests made to non-government entities.

    It’s the requester’s responsibility to write the request in a manner that clearly specifies a record that is being requested, and to what government entity it should be sent.


How to write a successful request

Here is a guide to making an effective and successful records request.

  • Be specific
    It is important that what you are requesting is specific and reasonable, and is an actionable records request. Please specify the exact records you’d like to receive, rather than any “possible” or “potential” info that could be searched. Remember that the larger your request, the more time it usually takes to fulfill. Specificity will often help reduce the amount of time needed to process the request.

    It is important that a request has a clearly written and complete Subject and Message, and also specifies the Government Entity (or entities), City and/or County, and State to which the request should be sent. If applicable, please also include any responsive timelines for the info that should be requested — For example:

    “All emails sent from 11/11/19 – 12/11/19.”

    This will help reduce the amount of time needed for our team to review and send the request, and will also reduce the likelihood that a government entity will need additional clarification in order to process the request.

    While we do proofread requests we receive for general spelling and clarity, we may choose not to fulfill the request if it is incomplete, or it is unclear what specific info the requester hopes to receive, or if it violates our policies.

  • Be nice
    Seriously – it makes a difference. Use words like “please” and “thank you,” and respect the time and efforts of the person who is handling your request.
  • Be persistent
    When submitting a request to government entities, it’s important to ask for a timeline as to when the request might be fulfilled, and to follow up consistently. Good news – the Sunshine Request team handles this part for you!

Checklist for writing a request:

  • Does my request have a clear, complete, Subject?
    Please give the request a unique Subject which gives the recipient an idea about what is being requested — For example:

    Subject: (November 2019) Request for all Sunshine County, NC government emails 11/11/19 – 12/11/19

  • Does my request have a clear, complete, Message and Timeline?
    Please be as specific as possible in your Message by indicating the exact names, subject matter / keywords, file formats (PDF, CSV etc.), and timelines you’d like to receive. Please omit extraneous statements or personal opinions about the info requested, as this is not relevant to making a public records request.

    ** If you are requesting documents or communication records such as emails, please note that these can be labor intensive to gather and review. We recommend you request a limited timeframe — For example:

    Start Date: 11/11/19 End Date: 12/11/19
    Message: “Hello Sunshineville County, NC Government.

    I would like to make a public records request for the following information:

    Please provide all emails sent between Sunshineville County Commissioners Bert Sesame and Ernie Street from 11/11/19 – 12/11/19 related to Airbnbs on Sunshine Street. I would ideally like to receive the document in PDF format.

    Thank you for your help!”

  • Ready to make a request? Simply fill out the form and we’ll take it from there!