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Author Archives: admin9
A Midwestern and Great Lakes region state, Indiana is nicknamed “The Hoosier State”, which refers to its country roots. Indiana is the 16th most populous state in the nation, with over 6.5 million residents. A large part of the state’s economy comes from manufacturing and much still from farming; the state does have provisions in its statutes for public access to government records.
Indiana was an early adopter of public records law, with its Hughes Anti-Secrecy Act being passed in 1953. It was found to be too narrow of a statute and was replaced in 1983 by the Public Records Act, which is covered in Chapter 3 of Article 14 of Title 5 in the Indiana Code. The Act states that “any person” can access public records in Indiana. The person requesting records does not have to state the reason for the request, but there are a few restrictions on the use of the information. For example, lists of names, addresses, and email addresses cannot be disclosed for commercial or political purposes.
The records covered under the Act include records from all public entities, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, subject to various exemptions. The records that are exempt include:
Background checks in the state of Indiana are performed through the Indiana State Police. A Limited Criminal History report can be requested on anyone by anyone through the online system for a fee. This will produce a report that will return a list of convictions over a year old and arrests less than a year old. If the request is for licensing or a government position, the background check will be handled through that agency and will be more thorough fingerprint-based check. Employers wishing to request a criminal background check must get a signed authorization form from the applicant before obtaining one of these reports.
To obtain information on offenders in the state of Indiana, learn about services for victims, or get other help with state correctional programs, you’ll want to visit the Indiana Department of Corrections website. To locate an offender, you can search on their website with either an Offender Number or just a First and Last Name. You will receive information on the offender’s conviction, their current location, and earliest possible release date.
Information on courts in Indiana can be obtained through the administrator of the courts website. There are two sites to search court records, one for trial courts and another for appeals courts. If you would like to obtain paper copies of court files, you will need to request them from the appropriate courthouse.
Vital records in the state of Indiana are maintained by the state Department of Health. If you need a birth or a death certificate, there are three ways to request these:
If you need a marriage or divorce certificate, you can only obtain these from the county in which the marriage or divorce occurred. How far back records are available, and relationship requirements depend on the type of record being requested.
Located in the Appalachian region of the United States, West Virginia was one of only two states to form during the American Civil War. While classified as part of the South, it borders Ohio and Pennsylvania to the north, with its capital and largest city being Charleston. The state is known for its mountains and coal mining industry and, with just 1.8 million residents, is the 38th most populous in the U.S. West Virginia does make it possible for the public to obtain government records in the state.
The West Virginia Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1977 and can be found in Chapter 29B of the West Virginia Code. There have been several amendments over the past several decades, with some significant language changes in 1992 for the inclusion of electronic records and again in 2002 to exempt more security-related data in response to the events of 9/11.
Under the law, “every person” may have access to public records in West Virginia and this includes individuals, corporations, and associations. The purpose for the request of the records generally doesn’t matter except when it comes to requests from inmates. There are no restrictions on the use of records once obtained although courts may limit the use of personal information.
Records that are covered under the law include all records from every “public body” in the state, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Records that are not subject to the law, or that are exempt, include:
Background checks in the State of West Virginia are the responsibility of the West Virginia State Police but have been contracted out to an online third party: IdentiGo.com. This company handles all fingerprint services and background checks on behalf of the state, and these are used for such things as licensing, pre-employment, and housing matters. As these are fingerprint-based checks, consent is required to request a criminal record.
To find out information about the correctional facilities in West Virginia, search for an inmate, or learn about victim services, you can visit the state Department of Corrections website. If you wish to locate an offender in the West Virginia system, you can search on the DOC Offender Search page with either a DOC Number or a name. Results will return the inmates location, list of offenses, and projected release date. If your search does not return results, you may also wish to search on the West Virginia Regional Jail & Correctional Facility Authority site, as it brings up results for regional jails as opposed to the state prison system.
Any information on courts in the state of West Virginia can be found on its administrator of the courts website. The only online search available is through its WV State Law Library, which is limited. Access to specific court records will need to go through the clerk of the court at the courthouse where the case was heard.
If you need a copy of a birth, death or marriage certificate in West Virginia, you can request these from the Vital Registration Office of West Virginia’s Health Statistics Center. There are three ways to request these documents:
The records that you are able to obtain via these methods and the required documentation will depend on the type of certificate that you are requesting.
After 1851, divorce proceedings in West Virginia were recorded by the clerk of the circuit court in the county where the divorce occurred. This is where you will need to request a copy of your divorce certificate. Divorces are not public record until 50 years after the divorce was granted.
The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act makes public all records and meeting notes of public bodies in the state. All citizens and members of the press are allowed to access these records and request copies. “Public bodies” are defined as any agency that is supported by public funds to any degree or that expends public funds in any amount. “Public records” are any form of media retained by a public body, including electronic media such as emails.
Government agencies can only withhold a record if they can cite a specific legal exemption. Valid exemptions include Social Security numbers, trade secrets, tax standards used by the Department of Revenue, information that would violate attorney-client privilege, police records that could damage an active investigation, incomplete contracts and industrial development offers that have not yet been accepted. The law has language that requires exemptions to be interpreted “narrowly”, meaning that only clearly exempt information can be withheld. A partial record can be released with exempt information removed from it.
Agencies are allowed to charge for providing copies of records, but these charges are limited to the actual cost of gathering and copying the records. For paper records, agencies generally ask 10 to 25 cents per page. A written explanation of charges can be requested for amounts that seem excessive, and the cost can also formally be challenged in writing with the head of the agency that is providing the records.
The law specifies that agencies must provide a “timely response” to requests, but does not set an exact time limit for them to reply. Requests are usually filled within 15 business days.
State background checks are handled by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. Searching for criminal records requires either a set of fingerprints, or the subject’s last name, first initial and exact date of birth. A Social Security number can also be used to help ensure there are no false positives but is not required. There is a fee of $25 for each record request with an added $1 convenience fee for those who are requesting the records online. The state’s Sex Offender Registry can be searched online for free.
The general public is only allowed to access conviction information and arrest information related to a conviction. Complete criminal records are only available to the subject of the record and law enforcement agencies who need them for an investigation.
The South Carolina Department of Corrections provides an online “Inmate Search” tool for people currently incarcerated in a state prison. The inmate must presently be in a state facility; fugitives are not included in the search. This search provides only the full name, age, sex, race, height, weight and SCDC ID of the inmate. Any member of the general public can access this information.
County jail information must be obtained from the County Detention Center or Sheriff’s Office of each individual county. A number of counties either provide their own online search tool, or a daily list of bookings and releases. These searches provide the same information offered at the state level along with a booking mugshot, the nature of the charges, bail amount, arresting agency and the projected release date where applicable.
Case records for all counties in the state can be searched for online at the South Carolina Judicial Department website. Searches can only be conducted in one individual county at a time, however.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is responsible for issuing birth certificates, death certificates, divorce reports, marraige certificates and information about adoptions. It is possible to request all of these records in person at the DHEC State Vital Records Office in Columbia, by mail, by phone, or online through the VitalChek service.
Divorce records are only available from July 1962 to December 2012. The original county of issue should be contacted for records that fall outside of these dates.
Located in the Southern region of the United States, Arkansas has a diverse geography that is made up of the Ozark Mountains and the Arkansas Delta. Known as “The Natural State,” Arkansas is the 29th largest and offers residents and tourists much in the way of outdoor recreation. The 32nd most populous state in the U.S., Arkansas has just under 3 million residents and its government does make provisions for the sharing of public records.
The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act was first passed in 1967 and is covered under state statute Ark. Code Ann. §§ 25-19-101 – 25-19-109. The law has been amended 16 times since to clarify its intent. The Act states that “all citizens of Arkansas” may request public records. “Citizens” has been expanded to include corporations and businesses in the state, but convicted felons are prohibited from obtaining certain records. The purpose of the request is only taken into account when it comes to personnel records, and it doesn’t matter how any records are used once obtained.
The Act covers public access to records maintained in public offices and includes the executive branch, state university system, legislative bodies, and non-government agencies that receive public funding. Among the exemptions, or things that you won’t be able to get, are:
Background checks in the state of Arkansas are administered by the Arkansas State Police. Background checks can only be pulled by certain entities, such as licensing bureaus, child welfare agencies, school districts, facilities that care for the elderly, and certain employers. Others, such as standard pre-employment checks, must have a signed consent. These background checks are done through an online system and can be a name-based or fingerprint-based report.
Information on inmates in the state of Arkansas system, help with victims rights, or other inmate-related assistance can be found on the state’s Department of Corrections website. To learn information about an inmate, the state has its own inmate population search page, where you can enter the offenders ADC Number, if known, their Name, age range, and other pertinent information to conduct a search. You will receive information on where the offender is being housed, a list of their charges or convictions, and an anticipated release date. If you don’t have enough information for a search, you can simply download their entire database and browse through it.
Any information needed about Arkansas courts can be found on its administrator of the courts website. Some public records can be obtained through its online CourtConnect, which allows the public to locate information on cases through most of the district and circuit courts, as well as the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. Paper copies of records will need to be requested from the appropriate courthouse.
Vital records in Arkansas, such as birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates, are maintained by the Arkansas Department of Health Vital Records Office. Vital records can be obtained in one of three ways:
How far back records are available, and relationship requirements depend on the type of record being requested.
Located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, Washington state is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and Canada to the north. Washington state is a leading lumber producer and is also known for its commercial fishing, high-tech industry, and unique music scene. With a population of just over 7 million, it is the second most populous state on the country’s west coast and does make provisions for the sharing of public records.
Washington’s public records law was passed in 1972 and is called the Public Disclosure Act, covered in RCW 42.56. The original intent of the law was to reform lobbying and campaign finance, but it was expanded in 2006 to broaden access to additional public records. The law says that “any person” can request public records in Washington yet there are some restrictions when individuals request records for a commercial purpose.
Records that are covered under the law are those for all state agencies and departments, including the executive branch and the legislature. The judicial branch is not included under this Act, nor are any private entities that are supported by state funds. Other records that are not included, or are exempt, under the Act, are:
Background checks in the state of Washington are administered by the Washington State Patrol, Criminal History Section. There are two kinds of reports that can be issued. An unrestricted criminal history record is limited to certified criminal justice agencies and includes all arrests regardless of the disposition. The public may request a criminal records report on anyone through the online Washington Access to Criminal History (WATCH) website and the results are instant. This will provide a report on all incidents that have led to a conviction and any arrests that are less than one-year-old without a disposition.
If applying for a job in the state of Washington, private employers may ask about convictions, but are not permitted to ask about convictions that are unrelated to the job or are more than ten years old. Also, juvenile convictions are returned on Washington background checks so are considered public record.
The Washington state Department of Corrections is the place to get information on inmate records, services for victims, and information on correctional facilities in the state. If you want to locate an inmate, they have their own Offender Info page where you can enter a DOC Number or Last Name to get information that is available to the general public. In the alternative, you can search through Vinelink.com. Either of these sites will provide you with the offender’s current location and estimated release date.
Information about any of the courts in the state of Washington can be found on its administrator of the courts website. The website also links to a search engine called eService Center for Washington Courts, where you can do public records searches for all district, municipal, superior, and appellate court cases. You can learn calendar dates, parties involved, attorneys of record, and case numbers. You may need to contact the particular court for the complete case file.
Vital records in the state of Washington, such as birth, death, marriage and divorce records are kept by the Washington State Department of Health. How to request each of these depends on the type of certificate and the date.
Birth Certificates: The state Department of Health has birth certificates from July 1, 1907 to present. Anyone can order a birth certificate, but they must have all of the pertinent information to do this. If the birth took place before July 1, 1907, you would need to contact the county where the event occurred.
Death Certificates: The state Department of Health issues death certificates from July 1, 1907 to present. Anyone can order a death certificate if they have all of the pertinent information to fill out the request. If the death took place before July 1, 1907, the specific county of record is the place to contact for the information.
Marriage Certificates: The state Department of Health keeps Washington marriage certificates for marriages taking place from January 1, 1968 to present. If the marriage took place before this date, you can request the information from the county auditor’s office where the marriage took place.
Divorce Certificates: The state Department of Health keeps Washington divorce certificates from January 1, 1968 to present. For divorces that took place before this date, the information can be requested from the county auditor’s office where the final decree was made.
Prior to 1923, there were no laws in the state of Alabama with regards to access to public records. Any request for such was dealt with under common law precedence. Now, with one of the shortest public records laws, the state of Alabama tries to be clear in few words what is covered and what is not. However, the courts have often had to interpret the meaning due to its brevity.
Alabama Code Section 36-12-40covers public records disclosure in the state and says that “every citizen has a right to access public records.” This has been deemed to include all citizens of the U.S., members of the news media, corporations and professional organization. It does not include prisoners, however. The custodian of the particular records may ask for the purpose of the request and “idle curiosity” is not a valid purpose in the state of Alabama.
Records that are not available, or are exempt, include:
As to how to obtain the records, the law only says that citizens should have “reasonable access” so it would depend on which agency you are requesting records from and their particular procedures.
Alabama has a specific criminal background check system, through ALEA (Alabama Law Enforcement Agency) that it uses to check criminal histories and that qualified employers can subscribe to in order to conduct criminal background checks. While you can obtain your own background report, unless you are a qualified employer in Alabama, you cannot obtain someone else’s report. Employers who qualify to use the state’s system can run checks on current employees, prospective employees, and volunteers.
The Alabama Department of Corrections makes certain information available about people who are housed in the state’s various correctional facilities. You can find out where they are, their anticipated release date, and usually why they are being held. To search for an inmate, the state has its own search page, where you will need to enter the inmates AIS#, First Name, and Last Name.
Access to Alabama court records depends on the court and the type of case. Most court case records (criminal, civil, small claims, traffic, domestic, child support) can be accessed online through the state’s On-Demand web portal. Any citizen can set up an account, pay to search for a case by name or case number, or even pay for lifetime case monitoring.
You can also get documents directly at the courthouse and find more information about the various courts at the Administrator of the Courts.
Current vital records for birth, death, marriage and divorce are kept by The Center for Health Statistics. However, historical records depend upon the type of record and the date.
Birth records: Alabama did not require recording of birth certificates until 1908. Most birth records list the date of birth, place of birth, sex, and race, but not the name of the child. Names of parent and attending physician are often listed. For birth records older than 125 years, you have to be either an immediate family member to make a request or have written permission from the next of kin.
Death records: Death certificates were also not recorded in Alabama until 1908. For death records older than 25 years, you have to be an immediate family member to make a request or have written permission from the next of kin.
Marriage Certificates: Marriage certificates began in the state of Alabama in 1936, and most certificates show the names of the husband and wife as well as the presiding official.
Divorce Certificates: Divorce records were not kept until 1950, and most records show only the names of the parties involved and the date.
Any of these records can be requested online through a partnership that the state has with VitalCheck, or through the mail.
Although Hawaii is rated as having one of the most open state governments, the language regarding public records is vague. Public records in the state are governed by the  Hawaii Uniform Information Practices Act,established in 1975. This includes written, auditory, visual, electronic, or any other physical form of record maintained by Hawaiian governmental offices and agencies.
Through the Office of Information Practices website, the public may use the Records Report System (RRS). The RRS is a database which contains descriptions of 29,000 record titles, how they may retrieved, and so on. Although it lists what records are stored by government agencies, the RRS, itself, does not contain the records.
Exceptions are made for records that would constitute an invasion of privacy, records for current judicial proceedings, confidential government records, and draft working papers of legislative agencies. Examples include medical, psychiatric, or psychological information, criminal investigations, social or welfare benefits information, and personnel files.
Criminal and arrest records as well as official state background check information can be obtained with the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center (HCJDC). The agency is responsible for the statewide criminal history record information system as well as the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, Sex Offender and Other Covered Offender Registry, and the Adult Criminal Conviction Information website.
Only arrest records which resulted in convictions, acquittals, or dismissals due to physical or mental disease, disorder or defect are officially considered public records (Chapter 704, HRS). Non-conviction arrest records and juvenile criminal records are not available to the public.
Inmate and jail records in Hawaii are maintained by each county’s correction center or facility. The facility must be contacted in person, by mail, or by phone and no online searches for inmate records are available.
Court records in Hawaii are administered by the Hawaii State Judiciary branch, a unified court system which is presided over by the Hawaii Supreme Court. General information on the courts, including news and reports, legal reference, community outreach, and special projects can be found at the Hawaii Administrative Director of Courts website.
On this site, Hawaii court records can be accessed via two search portals, the Ho`ohiki and eCourt Kokua. Ho`ohiki indexes both criminal and civil cases from the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals and the Hawaii Supreme Court. Official certified court cases in paper for must be obtained at the courthouses where they took place. but it is not a complete directory of all information that is available to the public. Traffic cases can be searched through eCourt Kokua.
In Hawaii, access to vital records, including birth, death, marriage, and divorce records are kept by the Office of Health Status Monitoring and access is restricted, in accordance with statute HRS §338-18.
Vital records for birth, deaths, and marriages go as far back as 1853, but any requests for documents that go back more than 75 years from the date of request are subject to additional privacy restrictions. Divorce records are only available for dates falling for 1951-2002 with the Department of Health; all other years are available at the court where the divorce was filed.
Vital records may only be obtained by authorized persons through the Department of Health. Only persons with direct and tangible interest in a vital record can requests for vital records. Persons with direct and tangible interest are limited to the following persons: the individual named on the record, a spouse, a parent, a descendant, an immediate family member, legal guardian or representative, or adoptive parents. In addition, individuals with a court order or a verifiable legal interest in obtaining the record may also be granted a copy.
Records may be ordered online through the Office of Health Status Monitoring or by telephone by calling, any day or any time, by calling (808) 586-4533. Walk-in service is also available Monday through Friday at the Health Department Building between the hours of 7:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Hawaii vital records for births, deaths and marriages date to 1853, but records less than 75 years old are subject to privacy restrictions. Divorce records are available only for 1951-2002 in the Department of Health; other years are available in the court where filed. Hawaii public records of vital statistics since 1909 can be ordered online; older records require a request in writing.
Maryland’s Public Information Act grants the residents of the State a broad right of access to appropriate public information and public records. However, both state and federal laws provide exemptions that serve various needs, including the privacy of individuals and legitimate governmental interests.
The Maryland Public Information Act Manual (14th Ed.) (October 2015) is a resource for government officials who wish to meet their responsibilities under the Act, and for members of the public and press looking to access information.
Public access to case records originating within the District Court and Circuit Courts is available to the public. All of the collected information is a matter of public record that can be inspected and copied by citizens, unless an exception under the law exists. Court records can be located on the Maryland Judiciary Web site. For courthouse locations and contact information, a courts directory is provided. To read the Maryland Access Rule on court records, click here.
Records kept and maintained by the Office of the Clerk of Court for each Maryland County are available to the public, although the records of juvenile or adoption cases may be restricted.
Information on background checks can be found on the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services website. Information gathered and possessed by the Maryland Criminal Justice Information System, Central Repository (CJIS) is maintained on a secure basis, and is not available to the public without proper authorization.
To initiate a background check on an employee, a “Private Party Petition Packet” or General Registration Form must be filled out and forwarded to the CJIS Authorization Administrator. If the petition is approved, a request for a criminal history record on a potential employee can be submitted.
Maryland VINE is an innovative, free service provided by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, and the Maryland State Board of Victim Services. It provides information to crime victims, victims’ advocates, and other concerned citizens and the information is kept confidential.
The Dept. of Public Safety and Correctional Services provides an inmate locator, to enable members of the public to access the housing location of inmates committed to the custody of the Commissioner of Corrections and currently housed at the Division of Correction facilities. The Locator may not list some short-sentenced inmates who are housed at Division of Pretrial and Detention Services facilities. The locator does not supply information on former detainees who are no longer in custody.
The Division of Vital Records of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issues certified copies of birth, death, fetal death, marriage certificates, and divorce verifications. It also provides information on procedures to follow for registering an adoption, legitimization, or adjudication of paternity.
Most birth certificates for individuals born after 1939 in Maryland are also available for same-day service (with appropriate identification) at local health departments in all jurisdictions except Montgomery County, Baltimore City, and Baltimore County.
Public access to the estate case records of the State of Maryland Register of Wills is available. This information includes the case number, decedent’s name and date of death, personal representative’s and/or attorney’s name, county of filing, and estate type and status. All information contained in the database originated in the counties where the cases were filed, so the amount of historical data may vary based on when an automated case management system was deployed in that county.
Information on other topics, such as waiving filing fees, e-recording for land records, domestic violence, family law issues, small claims, mediation and ADR, and court language services can be accessed on the Maryland Courts main site.
General information on what is provided on the main Maryland Courts website can be accessed by clicking here.