Public records from the state of Massachusetts are available from a variety of different sources. There have been laws on the books in Massachusetts mandating the disclosure of public records since 1851, and many records are open if you know who and how to ask for them. Here is how you can access the various types of public records in the state of Massachusetts.
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Massachusetts Public Records Laws
In the state of Massachusetts, the process of accessing public records is fairly straightforward. According to state public records law, any records that are created by or in the custody of any government body of the state must be made available unless it can be shown that the information will be a danger to public safety.
Exceptions to this open door policy include:
- Medical records
- Inter-agency memos referencing developing policy positions
- Personal notebooks of employees
- Law enforcement investigatory materials
- Trade secrets
- Closed bids and proposals
- Appraisals on contracts in negotiation
- Personal information from firearms permit applications
- Questions and answers to assessments
- Blueprints, procedures, or policies related to security matters
- Adoption information
- Personal information about judicial employees
Massachusetts Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks
Massachusetts criminal records checks can be done on almost anyone in the state, with easy background checks that pull up arrest records and other in-depth information. In Massachusetts, a criminal record is called a CORI, which stands for “Criminal Offender Record Information” and these reports are largely open to anyone through an online portal run by the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services. While certain classes, such as employers, landlords, real estate agents, and government agencies, will see a more complete report, the general public can pull reports on anyone that will show recent convictions.
Massachusetts Jail and Inmate Records
In order to locate an offender who is currently an inmate at one of the Massachusetts Department of Correction facilities, you will need to have the offender’s first name, last name and/or commitment number. You can look up the information at Vinelink.com, or you can call (877) 421-8463 for further information.
If you have questions or concerns about a current inmate, you can refer to the state of Massachusetts Victim Services unit.
Massachusetts Court Records
If you are looking for court records in Massachusetts, it will depend on the particular court and type of case as to the proper method for obtaining records. Certain trial court case information is available to the public electronically via eAccess, where users can search by case name, case number, and case type. For court records and information before 1860, you will need to search the Judicial Archives at the State Archives of Boston. Access to records at the county level may be achieved either through the county’s website or by enlisting the help of a third party service.
Massachusetts Vital Records
All vital records in Massachusetts should be requested through their Department of Human Services, Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, with the exception of very old records.
Birth and death records in Massachusetts go back as far as 1841. For records before this date, you may wish to contact the particular town or city. From 1841 to 1920, records were maintained at the Massachusetts State Archives, and you must request records from them directly either via mail or in person. You will need to know the person’s name, and the city or town in which the birth or death occurred. The archive is located at: 220 Morrissey Blvd. Boston, MA 02125.
Beginning in 1921, The Registry of Vital Records and Statistics is the place to request all birth, death, marriage and divorce records. There is no online method of requesting these. You would also either need to request via mail, in person, or through a third party website. Their address is: 120 Mt. Vernon St., 1st Floor, Dorchester, MA 02125.