Arizona Public Records
Arizona is a mix of signals when it comes to Freedom of Information Act laws and that could make it challenging to obtain the public information or records that requesters seek. The law includes all three government branches of executive, judicial and legislative with the definition of “public body” meaning any state, county, city, own, school district, political subdivision or tax-support district in the state along with any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council or committee. It also includes any public organization or agency that is supported in whole or in part by state money, which includes charter schools.
Even though there are no exemptions, there are other elements such as a lack of time period that make obtaining information difficult. Requests for public documents can be maide in-person or orally, but those rejected will need to be resubmitted in writing. Requests can also be made by email or mail.
The different things listed in Arizona’s statutes can make getting public records confusing as well as challenging. We have put together a state-by-state guide to help those wanting public information to be able to weave around through the different laws to get the information they are seeking.
Table of Contents
- 1 What does the Arizona public records law say?
- 2 How can a person access public records in Arizona?
- 3 Arizona criminal records
- 4 Arizona inmate records
- 5 Arizona court records
- 6 Arizona vital records
- 7 Frequently asked questions about Arizona records
What does the Arizona public records law say?
Arizona’s law provides that anyone either within or outside the state can request public information. However, there isn’t a specific time frame that agencies must respond to a request. Even so, the courts are defining the word “promptly” listed in the law to mean the request would be addressed as quickly as possible. Failure to respond promptly is considered a denial.
Also, the state of Arizona doesn’t require an appointment of a records custodian for the state or for each agency. However, the law says that a government agency will maintain proper records and will assist with requests for records.
There are no appeals options in place should a request be denied but requesters can take the agency issuing a denial to court. Agencies can charge fees for all records and there aren’t any fee waivers. However, those seeking records on behalf of a government, a government division. insurance or other types of benefits are exempted from fees.
To learn more about public access to records, visit Arizona.gov. The Arizona State Library via the secretary of state website is also a good resource, which provides some public records and retention schedules.
How can a person access public records in Arizona?
Some records are available online while others require a formal request. If a request is necessary, it can be delivered by mail, email, or by phone to the record-holding department.
Every department is different, so expect some variation to the rules if you’re accessing records from multiple places. This can be done by email, mail or by phone depending on the department where the request is submitted. In general, a public records request should include:
- Your name and contact information, including an email, phone number, and mailing address
- The name of the document you want access to with as much detail as possible
- A specific time period that you’d like to receive the materials by
- How to deliver the documents, whether by email or mail
Due to COVID, some public offices may have limited hours of operation. As a result, online requests are best, but if you want to go in person you should call ahead.
Arizona criminal records
Criminal records have the basics of all a person’s interactions with police and the courts. This can include arrests, charges and court action. It typically doesn’t include traffic offenses and sometimes won’t include misdemeanors, depending on the state.
There are a lot of reasons why someone may want to look at criminal records. The most common reason is employment as many employers will require a background check before starting a job. It can also be required for some home services such as jobs like caretaker, house cleaning and maid services, and babysitting services.
Criminal background checks could also be used in certain business dealings if there is to be a merger or partnership. In some cases, families may want to search a background before approving a marriage or investigate a relationship.
What’s on a criminal record?
Criminal records contain information regarding a person’s history with law enforcement and the courts. These include arrests, charges or court appearances. Details are pulled from local police departments, the courts and the state prison system. While every state can have different things on a criminal record, there are typically five things on a person’s criminal record:
- Name, birthday and nationality
- Distinguishing features such as tattoos
- A list of all offenses, both misdemeanors and felonies, with details of crimes.
Where can a person find Arizona criminal records?
- Resource: Arizona Department of Public Safety
The Arizona Department of Public Safety is where those seeking criminal records and background checks go. The Criminal History Records Section is the Central State Repository for Arizona’s criminal records. All law enforcement agencies in Arizona are mandated by law to report arrest and disposition information into the repository.
However, copies of criminal records are restricted to only authorized people and agencies.
Employee background checks can be done for authorized agencies and that includes agencies submitting fingerprints with proof of authorized entity requiring it. However, it does not allow release of criminal history to private companies for employment. It does release them to non-profit organizations listed within the law.
Arizona also doesn’t provide a clearance letter to immigrate, get a visa or for foreign adoption.
Arizona inmate records
There are more than 4,500 hundred inmates housed in the Arizona State Prison. Inmate records can be important to several types of people from potential employers once the inmate is released to crime victims who may want to oppose release.
Inmate records shed some additional light on why a person was incarcerated and their behavior while serving time. This can be helpful to some agencies trying to assist felons in housing, jobs and other areas of life.
What’s on an inmate record?
Arizona is similar to other states in what it has on an inmate record. Once a requester gets an inmate record, they will have the information such as basic personal information like the name, a birthdate and the gender, a mug shot and inmate location, an inmate registration number and jail transfer information, along with custody status
Where can a person find Arizona inmate records?
Those seeking inmate information can look online at the Arizona Department of Corrections Rehabilitation and Reentry website. You will need the offender’s last name and their first initial, as well as their gender and whether they are active in incarceration, inactive, on supervised parole or an absconder.
There is one exemption to the inmate search in Arizona. Inmates can’t use the system to look at their information or that of any other inmate. Inmates get an automatic status update on their information once a year.
Arizona court records
Court records can be vitally important in certain cases. There are times when people want to know more about a case. Some of those instances include through vetting for a public or private position, to use the information in another legal case, to clear up issues in adoption or custody cases or to gain a government clearance.
Some people may want court information for a creative enterprise such as a movie or television show or they may seek information as part of a genealogy project.
What’s on a court record?
Court records within the judicial branch include all aspects of a specific court case beginning with the initial arrest or civil court filing. They can also include things like
- Court transcripts
- Case files
- Court minutes
- Court orders
- Jury records
- Judgement information
- Witness documentation.
These are huge files and can be costly to have printouts made.
Where can a person find Arizona court records?
- Resource: Clerk of Superior Court Maricopa County
In Arizona, most court cases can be found at the Clerk of Superior Court in Maricopa County through an ECR online system. Those who are party to a case can access the case as a registered user. Those who are not a party in the case can view summaries in some case types, but those are more limited.
Those who have cases on the file can look at those in:
- Family Court
- Tax Court
Those who are not a party to a case can only look at civil cases, some limited criminal cases and tax court cases. Those not a party to case can view case documents from Family Court and Probate Court in-person at the proper facility.
For Arizona Supreme Court information, there is an online database that you can reference provided by the judicial branch.
Arizona vital records
Vital records are important for a number of reasons. Since they include birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees, they can be used to prove identification. That means they are often required to attend school, apply for college, play sports, get a job, apply for Social Security, get married, adopt and obtain passports. These are the most commonly requested public documents.
What information is needed to request a vital record?
States have established new protocols for obtaining vital records to address privacy concerns. Anyone requesting a vital record in Arizona must submit:
- The approximate date and place of the event,
- The full name of the person, including maiden names and
- A case file number for divorce record or a license number for marriage records.
Where can a person find Arizona vital records?
Vital records can be obtained through the Arizona Department of Health Services. However, the office is currently closed to walk-in requests because of COVID-19. Those requesting vital records may do so online or by mail. Birth and death records can be ordered online through the ADHA Bureau of Vital Records.
Arizona implemented a new system October 2 called the D.A.V.E system for hospitals, funeral home staff and doctors to process death records. However, the public does not have access to the system. The system was meant to provide for quicker response times regarding death certificates.
Online services accept major credit and debit cars. There is a state fee schedule but some counties may have their own fees. The state fee schedule states that birth and death certificates are $20 each. There are also $12.95 processing fees in many cases.
Marriage and divorce decrees must be obtained from the courts where the event happened. They are maintained by the Clerk of Superior Court in the local counties. Each county may set its own fee to send a certified copy.
Frequently asked questions about Arizona records
To provide additional information, here’s a look at commonly asked questions about public records in Arizona:
Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?
Yes. Whether you live in Phoenix or San Diego, any United States citizen can request public documents.
Is there a records custodian in Arizona?
There is no formal custodian of public records. Agencies are to maintain their own records and handle requests.
What exemptions exist?
There are no exemptions.
How long does that state have to respond?
There isn’t a time designated within the law to respond, although courts determine the word “promptly” sets the time as quickly as possible.
Is there an appeals process in place?
There is no administrative appeals process. In many states, requesters can file a complaint with the attorney general, but that’s not so in Arizona. Instead, a request can take court action if a state agency denies a request or is unresponsive.
What fees are associated with requesting public records?
Agencies set their own fees to different types of requests for public information and documents.