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Freedom of Information Act

The FOIA Service maintains files on individuals for whom Federal warrants have been issued; records on prisoners in the custody of the United States Marshals; background information and records related to threats to and the protection of Government witnesses, U.S. Attorneys and their assistants, Federal jurists and other court officials; records on process served and executed in Federal court proceedings; and records on seized and forfeited property and evidence.

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How to Make a FOIA Request

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request can be made for any Agency record. Please be as specific as possible. You can specify the date range that applies to your FOIA request and the format in which you wish to receive the records.

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You can request to receive the records via email or in hard copy form. You may file a FOIA request with the U.S. Marshals Service electronically by clicking here.

The U.S. Marshals Service will make every effort to respond in the manner you prefer. Before submitting your request, you may contact the U.S. Marshals Service FOIA Public Liaison to discuss the records you are seeking and to receive assistance in describing the records.

Please note that there are statutory FOIA exemptions that authorize the withholding of information of a sensitive nature from public release. For example, the FOIA's exemptions protect national security information, personally identifiable information, privileged records, and law enforcement sensitive information. When the U.S. Marshals Service processes a FOIA request, the Agency will assert exemptions in connection with the appropriate federal exemptions located at 5 U.S.C. § 552.

Additionally, you should be aware that the FOIA does not require agencies to do research for you, to analyze data, to answer written questions, or to create records in response to a request.

The U.S. Marshals Service does not require a special form when making a FOIA request. Requests should be in writing. The U.S. Marshals Service accepts FOIA requests submitted electronically, including by web form, email, and/or facsimile. You should include the notation "Freedom of Information Act Request" in your e-mail or on the front of your request envelope and also at the beginning of your request letter.

Expedited Processing

Under certain conditions you may be entitled to have your request processed on an expedited basis. 

The U.S. Marshals Service recognizes specific standards by which requesters will be afforded expedited processing of a FOIA request. Expedited processing may be granted if the requester demonstrates a compelling need for the records requested. 

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Under the FOIA, a requester can show a compelling need in one of two ways: (1) by establishing that his or her failure to obtain the records quickly could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual or, (2) if the requester is a person primarily engaged in disseminating information and demonstrates there exists an urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity.

A request for expedited processing must be accompanied by a statement setting forth the reasons why your request should be expedited. You should certify that the reasons you have given are true and correct. The Agency will be required to notify you of its decision whether to grant or deny expedited processing within ten calendar days after receiving your letter. If the Agency denies your request for expedited processing, you will be advised of your right to submit an administrative appeal of that denial, which will be handled expeditiously. (For information about filing administrative appeals, see the Section on Administrative Appeals.)

Fees

There is no initial fee required to submit a FOIA request. The FOIA does provide for the charging of certain types of fees, in some instances. For purposes of fee assessment only, the FOIA divides requesters into three categories.

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The first category includes commercial-use requesters, who may be charged fees for searching for records, processing the records (i.e., reviewing them to determine the application of FOIA exemptions), and duplicating them to respond to a request.

The second category includes educational or noncommercial scientific institutions and representatives of the news media, who are charged only for duplication fees, and who are provided the first one hundred requested pages free of charge.

The third category includes all other requesters, who are charged only for record searches and duplication. For non-commercial-use requesters there is no charge for the first two hours of search time or for the first 100 pages of duplication or their cost equivalent. 

Department of Justice currently charges five cents per page for duplication. It charges an hourly search fee that roughly approximates the salary and experience level of the personnel conducting the search. In all cases, if the total fee does not exceed a minimum amount, currently $25, U.S. Marshals Service will not charge any fee at all.

You may always include in your request letter a statement limiting the amount that you are willing to pay in fees should fees apply. If a component estimates that the total fees for processing your request will exceed $25, it will notify you in writing of the estimate and offer you an opportunity to narrow your request in order to reduce the fees. If you continue to seek all of the records involved, you will be asked to express your commitment to pay the estimated fees and the processing of your request will be suspended until you agree to do so.

You ordinarily will not be required to pay the fees until the records have been processed and are ready to be sent to you. If, however, you have failed to pay fees within thirty days of billing in the past, or if the estimated fees exceed $250, you may be required to pay the estimated fees in advance — that is, before the records are even processed. If you agree to pay fees and then fail to do so within thirty days of billing, you may be charged interest on your overdue balance and U.S. Marshals Service will not proceed with any further requests from you until payment in full has been made.

If you agree to pay fees for a records search, be aware that you may be required to pay such fees even if the search does not locate any responsive records or, if records are located, even if they are determined to be entirely exempt from disclosure. If you have any questions about a fee estimate or assessment you should feel free to contact the U.S. Marshals Service FOIA Public Liaison. The Agency may be able to assist you in reformulating your request to meet your needs at a lower cost.

Fee Waivers

If you expect or are advised that a fee will be charged, you may request a waiver of those fees. Under the FOIA, fee waivers are limited to situations in which a requester can show that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

Requests for fee waivers from individuals who are seeking records pertaining to themselves usually do not meet this standard because such disclosures usually benefit the individual requester rather than increase the public's understanding of government operations and activities. In addition, a requester's inability to pay fees is not a legal basis for granting a fee waiver.

Response Times

Under the FOIA, all federal agencies are required to respond to a FOIA request within twenty business days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. This time period generally begins when the request is actually received by the FOIA office that maintains the records sought.

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If your request was misdirected, the component receiving the request will forward it to the proper Department of Justice component. However, please make all efforts to route your request to the appropriate Department of Justice component.

The U.S. Marshals Service receives thousands of FOIA requests each year. Many of these requests require a line-by-line review of hundreds of pages of documents. Although the U.S. Marshals Service makes every effort to respond to FOIA requests as quickly as possible, in some cases it simply cannot do so within the specified time period. This may be due either to the volume of records at issue or to the fact that the component has a backlog of previously received requests that are awaiting processing.

Under the FOIA, a component may extend the twenty-day response time when "unusual circumstances" exist. Unusual circumstances exist when:

  • the component needs to collect responsive records from separate offices
  • the request involves a "voluminous" amount of records that must be located, compiled, and reviewed; or
  • the component needs to consult with another federal agency or other Department of Justice components that have a substantial interest in the responsive information.

When such a time extension is needed, the Agency will notify you of this in writing.

Initial Request Determinations

Once the Agency has processed your request and any fee issues have been resolved, the Agency will send you a written initial determination.

In the vast majority of cases, Department of Justice components will include all documents that can be disclosed along with the determination letter, though in some cases the documents themselves may be sent to you separately, within a reasonable time after the determination letter has been sent to you.

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As mentioned previously, the FOIA provides access to all federal agency records, or portions of those records, except to the extent those records are protected by any of the FOIA's nine exemptions or three law enforcement exclusions. The determination letter will advise you of whether any information is being withheld pursuant to one or more of the exemptions. When a page of a record is being withheld in its entirety, the component ordinarily will specify the number of pages being withheld or make a reasonable effort to estimate the volume of the withheld information. Where a page of a record is being withheld in part, the withheld portions of the page will ordinarily be specifically marked with the applicable exemptions.

The FOIA authorizes agencies to withhold information when they reasonably foresee that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of nine exemptions covering:

  1. Classified national defense and foreign relations information;
  2. Internal agency personnel rules and practices;
  3. Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law;
  4. Trade secrets and other confidential or privileged commercial or financial information;
  5. Inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges;
  6. Information involving matters of personal privacy;
  7. Records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, to the extent that the production of those records:
    • could reasonably be expected to interfere with ongoing enforcement proceedings,
    • would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication,
    • could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,
    • could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of and/or information provided by a confidential source,
    • would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or
    • could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual;
  8. Information relating to the supervision of financial institutions; and
  9. Geological information on wells.

Congress provided special protection in the FOIA for three narrow categories of law enforcement and national security records. The provisions protecting those records are known as "exclusions."

The first exclusion protects the existence of an ongoing criminal law enforcement investigation when the subject of the investigation is unaware that it is pending and disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.

The second exclusion is limited to criminal law enforcement agencies and protects the existence of informant records when the informant's status has not been officially confirmed.

The third exclusion is limited to the FBI and protects the existence of foreign intelligence or counterintelligence, or international terrorism records when the existence of such records is classified.

Records falling within an exclusion are not subject to the requirements of the FOIA. So, when a component responds to your request it will limit its response to those records that are subject to the FOIA.

Administrative Appeals

You may file an administrative appeal if you are not satisfied with a U.S. Marshals Service initial response. You also may file an administrative appeal if the U.S. Marshals Service has not granted that request for expedited processing and/or a fee wavier.

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Further, you may appeal a determination that what has been requested is not reasonably described, that a record does not exist or cannot be located, that a record is not readily reproducible in the form or format requested, that the requested information is not a record subject to the FOIA, or a determination regarding the charging of a fee. In short, you may appeal any adverse determination made by a component.

You will be advised of your right to file an administrative appeal in the U.S. Marshals Service's response containing the adverse determination. You will also be advised that you have the option to contact the component’s FOIA Public Liaison or the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Those resources may be able to answer any questions you have about the handling of your request. If you do elect to file an appeal it must be in writing and to be considered timely it must be postmarked, or in the case of electronic submissions, transmitted, within 90 calendar days after the date of the U.S. Marshals Service's response. Appeals can be submitted to DOJ through the FOIA STAR web portal accessible at https://doj-foia.entellitrak.com/etk-doj-foia-prod/login.request.do. Instructions for how to use this portal are available on OIP's website at Submit/track request or appeal. In order to submit a FOIA administrative appeal through FOIA STAR, you must first create an account and become a registered user on the site.

Appeals can also be submitted by mail to:

Office of Information Policy

U.S. Department of Justice

6th Floor

441 G Street N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Both the front of the envelope and the administrative appeal letter should contain the notation "Freedom of Information Act Appeal." The Office of Information Policy (OIP) also accepts administrative appeals by facsimile if sent to (202) 514-1009.

There is no specific form or particular language needed to file an administrative appeal. You should identify the component that denied your request and include the initial request number that the component assigned to your request and the date of the component's action. If no request number has been assigned, then you should enclose a copy of the component's determination letter. There is no need to attach copies of released documents unless they pertain to some specific point you are raising in your administrative appeal. You should explain what specific action by the component that you are appealing, but you need not explain the reason for your disagreement with the component's action unless your explanation will assist the appeal decision-maker in reaching a decision.

Administrative appeals from Department of Justice components are reviewed by an attorney in Office of Information Policy. The attorney ordinarily will have available all of the files pertaining to the processing of your request and will make an independent determination as to whether the component has properly handled your request.

Under the FOIA, Office of Information Policy is ordinarily required to make a determination on your administrative appeal within twenty business days. Office of Information Policy may take one of several actions on your administrative appeal. It may affirm the component's action in full, in which case it will often identify the reason why the component's action was proper. Alternatively, it may affirm part of the component's action, but otherwise "remand" the request in part for the component to take some further action. Finally, under some circumstances, it may remand the request to the component in its entirety for further action. When a case is remanded, you will have an opportunity to appeal again to Office of Information Policy if you are dissatisfied in any respect with the component's action on remand.

Resolving Disputes

As mentioned previously, each component has a FOIA Public Liaison who is a supervisory official to whom you may turn if you are dissatisfied with the services received from the component's FOIA Requester Service Center.

The FOIA Public Liaison can assist you throughout the request process, from working with you and the component to arrange an alternative time frame for processing your request, to increasing understanding regarding the status of your request, to assisting you in resolving disputes.

In addition, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), an office created within the National Archives and Records Administration, offers mediation services to FOIA requesters.

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They may be contacted in any of the following ways:

Office of Government Information Services

National Archives and Records Administration

Room 2510

8601 Adelphi Road

College Park, MD 20740-6001

Email: ogis@nara.gov

Phone: 301-837-1996

Fax: 301-837-0348

Toll-free: 1-877-684-6448

Finally, the FOIA provides requesters with the right to challenge an agency's action in federal court. Before doing so, you ordinarily will be required to have first filed an administrative appeal.

FOIA/PA Officer

Charlotte M. Luckstone

Office of General Counsel, CG-3, 15th Floor

Washington, DC 20530-0001

Phone: (703) 740-3943

Fax: (703) 740-3979

 

FOIA Public Liaison

Phone: (703) 740-3943

The United States Marshals Service is pleased to provide the public with a variety of resources.

The FOIA library includes frequently requested records, opinions, policy statements, and staff manuals/instructions to staff, created by the United States Marshals Service after Nov. 1, 1996.

United States Marshals serve as law enforcement agents of the Government and, in that capacity, also serve as officers of the Federal courts.

The Agency maintains investigatory files on individuals for whom Federal warrants were issued; records on prisoners in the custody of the United States Marshals Service (USMS); information and records related to the protection of Government witnesses, U.S. Attorneys and their assistants, Federal jurists, and other court officials; records on service of process executed in Federal court proceedings; and records on seized and forfeited property and evidence.

The U.S. Marshals Service also maintains various records pertaining to the administration of the Service, including policies and official personnel files for its employees.

The documents listed below may have been scanned from paper copies and processed in Portable Document Format (PDF). Text and pictures in PDF files look just like the originals. The contents of these PDF files can be viewed and printed using free Adobe Acrobat Reader software. The software can be downloaded from the Adobe website at http://www.adobe.com/. (Reference to any specific commercial product does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Marshals Service.)

In some instances the copy quality of the documents may be poor because the original paper files are not in perfect condition and all pages are not always completely clear and sharp. These are the best reproductions available.

If some portions of the files have been marked out and codes appear in the margins or alongside the deletions, then these codes may be matched up with the explanation of exemptions listed on the Exemptions page. In general terms, the U.S. Marshals Service excises information from documents to protect national security, personal privacy interests, the identity of confidential sources, and law enforcement techniques and procedures that are not commonly know. A complete listing of all FOIA exemptions can be found at 5 USC § 552.