Judicial Remedies and Penalties for Violating
The Act specifically provides civil remedies, 5 U.S.C. Sec.
552a(g), including damages, and criminal penalties, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552a(i),
for violations of the Act.|
The civil action provisions are premised on agency violations of the
Act or agency regulations promulgated thereunder.
An individual claiming such a violation by the agency may bring the
civil action in a federal district court. If the individual substantially
prevails, the court may assess reasonable attorney fees and other litigation
costs against the agency. In addition, the court may direct the agency to
grant the plaintiff access to his/her records, and when appropriate direct
the agency to amend or correct its records subject to the Act.
Actual damages may be awarded to the plaintiff for intentional or
willful refusal by the agency to comply with the Act.
In the case of "criminal violations" of the Act (Section 3 of the Act, 5
U.S.C. Sec. 552a(i) limits these so-called penalties to misdemeanors), an
officer or employee of an agency may be fined up to $5,000 for:
- Knowingly and willfully disclosing individually identifiable information
which is prohibited from such disclosure by the Act or by agency
- Willfully maintaining a system of records without having published a
notice in the Federal Register of the existence of that system of records.
In addition, an individual may be fined up to $5,000 for knowingly and
willfully requesting or gaining access to a record about an individual under
While the Act does not establish a time limit for prosecutions for
violation of the criminal penalties provision of the Act, it does limit the
bringing of civil action to two years from the date on which the cause of
action arose. See 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552a(g)(5). However, the time limit for
filing a civil action may be tolled for material and willful
misrepresentation by the agency of any information which is required to be
disclosed, if the misrepresentation is material to the liability of the
A civil action may be filed in the U.S. District Court in the district
where the requester resides or has his/her principal place of business; in
which the agency records are located; or in the District of
[cited in USAM 3-17.220]