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.
Located apart from the continental United States and northwest of Canada, Alaska is the largest and most sparsely populated U.S. state. Known for its diverse terrain, mountains and forests, Alaska is also known as a more conservative state when it comes to the release of public records.
Many public records in the state of Alaska are available to the public, with some exceptions. The Alaska government has included clauses in their statutes that allow them to hold back notes from confidential meetings and status reports on certain aspects of running the government. Also, meeting notes from the state Ethics Committee are confidential until a ruling is in place.
Aside from those exceptions, Alaska law says that the public records of all public agencies are open to inspection during regular business hours. Agencies that are subject to the law include: departments, offices, agencies, state boards, commissions, public corporations, or other organizational units created under the executive branch. Those who are exempt include The University of Alaska and the legislature of the state.
Background checks in the state of Alaska are administered by the Alaska Department of Public Safety. These records are available to employers and licensing agencies for screening and are open to anyone in the public if they have a signed authorization form. A report can be obtained by submitting fingerprints or by doing a name-based search. There are instructions and request forms for either available here and you may also walk-in with a request.
An Alaska background check many include such information as: Social Security number confirmation, home address, and criminal history going back seven years. However, if you are hired to work with children or seniors, there are provisions for additional disclosures. Also, if your background check is related to a position in the healthcare field, volunteer or paid, it will go through the state Division of Healthcare Services.
You can obtain information on current inmates by contacting the Alaska Department of Corrections. There are numbers and services for victims assistance as well as information for the various facilities in the state that house inmates. You may also search online through vinelink.com. In order to do a search, you will need either the Offender ID or the Offender’s first and last name.
Records produced in Alaska court cases are considered to be public record unless they are otherwise sealed by the court. To get copies of Alaska court records, you will need to either visit the appropriate court office, call the intake desk, or make your request via mail (only the Anchorage court accepts requests by email). You should know which court the case was filed in, the case number, and the filing date.
Alaska vital records for such things as birth, death, marriage and divorce are kept by the Alaska State Bureau of Vital Statistics. What you can request and how far back records go depends upon the type of record.
Birth Records: Prior to 1913, birth records were not recorded by government agencies in Alaska. Although required as early as 1913, there wasn’t full compliance in the state until about 1945. According to state law, only individuals listed on the birth record may obtain copies. The only exception is for a legal guardian.
Death Records: Similar to birth records, there are no records before 1913 and no complete compliance with the law until 1945. Access to death records is limited to family members and legal representatives for 50 years after the date of death.
Marriage Records: While territorial registration of marriage in Alaska began in 1913, there are few records prior to 1930. Only those named on a marriage certificate, or a legal representative, may request copies, and there is a time limit of 50 years after the date of marriage.
Divorce Records: Divorce records after 1950 may be obtained only by individuals named on the record or their legal representations. There is also a 50 year privacy period after the event that limits the request of these records.
Whether a person seeks public information to perform a background check for a job applicant, a potential renter, or a private investigation, knowing the Idaho laws that pertain to such matters is essential. Additionally, people have a legal right to obtain public in accordance with the Transparent Idaho policies enacted in 1990. The exact details of this law may be found in the relevant manual made available by the Idaho Attorney General’s office. It is always important to stay apprised of the various statutes when conducting a background check or request for public records.
According to the Idaho Public Records Law Manual, the purpose of the public records law is to provide the public with access to records maintained by government agencies at the state and local levels. The definition of the term “public record” includes a broad assortment of information. This information includes (but may not be limited to) writing that comprises information that relates to public business that has been prepared, kept, owned, or utilized by a state or local agency, as well as by an independent – politic or corporate – public entity. Such writing might come in the form of a handwritten or typed document; it also might be viewed via computer media, punched or magnetic cards, maps, tapes, or pictures.
Records that are not covered by the public records law in Idaho would typically disclose sensitive information – these records include over 75 exemptions. The majority of these exemptions include (but are not limited to) specific information associated with law enforcement agencies, as well as juvenile records and records of investigation. They may also include documents that pertain to medical information, geographical details, employment or personnel data, financial information, and trade secrets.
A repository of criminal history records is maintained by the Idaho State Police, Bureau of Criminal Identification, and it is this agency that issues official state background checks. Criminal history records can be searched at the agency’s website by fingerprint or name. The information available on a “rap sheet” may be accessed by the public – this information may include information regarding criminal charges, convictions, dispositions, and dismissals. Also included in rap sheets is arrest information, such as the date of an arrest, the arresting agency, the case number, whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony, and the number of counts at the time the arrest takes place.
In Idaho, jail and inmate records are made available through the Idaho Department of Correction website. The public may access details on people who are on parole or probation in Idaho, as well as information on incarcerated individuals. A list of the felonies for which a person is incarcerated should be available, and the names of those who have been incarcerated and completed their sentences should also be found there. However, conviction information for such people will not be available via the site. To obtain such information via the site itself, a person can perform an on-site Offender Search. Another option is to go to the Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) website, and click on Idaho in the dropdown box. Registration with the VINE website may be necessary in order to gain access to information there.
Those who wish to get both local and state Idaho Court Records can obtain them from the state agency that administers such information. In Idaho, the administrator of the courts is the Idaho State Judiciary, which maintains the Idaho Supreme Court Data Repository. The court records for one county in Idaho (Twin Falls County) must be accessed via a different resource: The iCourt site (Idaho’s Court Records Transition Information Site).
People who require information on vital records will need to visit the website for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The Idaho Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics has records of birth and death on file dating as far back as July of 1911. The same bureau has records of marriage and divorce dating as far back as May of 1947. In some counties, records pertaining only to those counties may date back even farther than the state records. In Idaho, birth certificates are considered legally confidential for 100 years, and stillbirth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates are considered the same for 50 years. To request vital records information, an individual or agency must fill out a certificate request form (found on the Health and Welfare website) or write a letter that includes all of the pertinent request information. A photocopy of required identification and a check or money order for the certificate fee must also be included with the request.
Gaining access to a wide range of public information is legal in Idaho. The public has the right to obtain many records maintained by state and local agencies. Knowing which records the public has access to can be helpful when conducting any kind of background check or private investigation.