A Bulletin on Iowa Open Meetings and Public Records Laws
By Attorney General Tom Miller -- February 2006
Can the Public Obtain Copies of "9-1-1" Audio Tapes?
Yes - audio tapes are just a different form of public record.
Iowans dial "9-1-1" every day to report a crime or accident or call for medical assistance. Are audio tapes of
911 calls public records? Public records do include "all records, documents, tape, or other information, stored
or preserved in any medium." Iowa Code sec. 22.1(3). What if a 911 call includes confidential information?
Can an audio tape be edited prior to release?
Generally, audio tapes of 911 calls are public records and must be released by the lawful custodian, unless a
specific provision of law makes all or part of the tape confidential. The following guidelines apply to release of
audio tapes, including those which contain confidential information:
- Open Records: Audio tapes of 911 calls which do not include confidential information are open records
and must be released on request. Iowa Code sec. 22.1(3).
- Confidential Information: Most audio tapes of 911 calls about a crime or incident should be treated as
peace officers' investigative reports that may be kept confidential; however, the "date, time, specific location,
and immediate facts and circumstances" must be released, except under unusual circumstances (see
- Unusual Circumstances: When release of information in a 911 audio tape "would plainly and seriously
jeopardize an investigation or pose a clear and present danger" to a person's safety, the "date, time, specific
location, and immediate facts and circumstances" about a crime or incident should be kept confidential.
Iowa Code sec. 22.7(5).
Remember: Audio tapes of 911 calls are just a different form of public record and must be released,
unless confidential under law. When a crime or incident is involved, the public has a right to certain
information in a 911 tape -- except under unusual circumstances.
Citizens who have inquiries or complaints about public records or open meetings may call the Iowa Citizens'
Aide/Ombudsman Office -- toll-free at 888-IA-OMBUD (888-426-6283.)
"Sunshine Advisory" bulletins provide information on
Iowa's public records and open meetings laws -- our
"Sunshine Laws." The bulletins are a resource for public officials and citizens.
Local officials should obtain
legal advice from their counsel, such as the city or county attorney.
Iowa Attorney General's Office: Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.
On the Web: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org.