Arkansas Public Records
The Freedom of Information Act gives every American citizen the right to access public records. Every state has their own version of the law, each with different rules and regulations. Given the differences that exist from state to state, accessing records isn’t always as simple as it seems.
In fact, in many states, accessing records can be challenging. Most states keep records in different agencies and some records are closed or sealed from the public.
To help people access Arkansas public records, including criminal records, inmate records, court records, and vital records, we’ve created this guide to help you locate the right agency, make a request, and understand what you are and aren’t allowed to review.
Table of Contents
- 1 What does the Arkansas public records law say?
- 2 How can a person access public records in Arkansas?
- 3 Arkansas criminal records
- 4 Arkansas inmate records
- 5 Arkansas court records
- 6 Arkansas vital records
- 7 Frequently asked questions about Arkansas records
What does the Arkansas public records law say?
The state has “one of the most comprehensive and strongest open-records and open-meetings laws in the country,” according to Arkansas.gov.
However, the state only allows residents of Arkansas to access public records. It’s one of few states in the nation with this requirement in place.
The law requires records custodians to respond to requests within three days, which is fairly quick. If a request is denied, there is a specific action that can be taken to appeal the decision. And, the law does state that fees for copies of files must be reasonable.
How can a person access public records in Arkansas?
For public records access in Arkansas, a person must submit a public records request. The request is sent via mail, email, mail, 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.
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-19, some offices have limited hours or are asking residents to make requests digitally as opposed to coming into an office in-person.
Arkansas criminal records
Criminal records provide a look at a person’s interaction (or lack of) with law enforcement. Employers typically want criminal records as a way to vet new employees. Most criminal records list misdemeanor or felony offenses, but don’t mention small infractions like speeding tickets or moving violations.
What’s on a criminal record
Information listed on a criminal record may vary, but most records contain:
- First middle and last name of the offender
- Offense(s) committed and law violated
- Physical descriptions such as race, height, eye color, hair color, and so on
- Date of birth
- Pending charges
- Acquitted or dismissed charges
Where can a person find Arkansas criminal records?
- Resource: Arkansas State Police
The Arkansas State Police is the records custodian for all criminal records. Again, it’s usually employers who are looking to access this information. Fortunately, criminal records in Arkansas are online and provided to the public in a searchable database.
There are two different sites that you can use. One of the sites is for people who have a person’s consent to run a background check and the other site is to run a check for personal reasons, without consent. Either way, expect to pay a fee of $20-$25 per search.
Arkansas inmate records
Inmate records are kept on every person that’s held within the state’s jails and prisons. Accessing these records can be done online as well.
What’s on an inmate record?
An inmate record in the state of Arkansas usually offers the following information:
- An inmate’s full name and aliases
- Date of birth
- Nationality/ethnicity as well as unique identifiers and associations
- Inmate’s criminal data, such as the primary charges, arrest/booking details, current sentence, bail/bond conditions
- Prospective court or release dates
Where can a person find Arkansas inmate records?
The Arkansas Department of Corrections holds all inmate records. The state does have these records organized digitally in a searchable database. To conduct a search, visit the website and enter information about the inmate.
The portal gives you several ways to search. The most accurate way is to search by ID number, which is given to each inmate upon entry. However, you can also search by name and facility as well.
Arkansas court records
Court record requests can be the most challenging. Usually, you need to know which court heard the case and make a request to the clerk of court. Arkansas, however, does have most of its records organized in an online database.
To request records, it is helpful to have some idea of how the court system works. The supreme court is the highest court, followed by the court of appeals. Below the court of appeals are 75 trial courts and superior courts.
What’s on a court record?
The information on a court record can vary, but in Arkansas most people are looking for these specific documents within a court record:
- Court minutes
- Case files
- Orders of the court
- Judgement documentation
- Jury records and files
- Winess docuemtnation
Where can a person find Arkansas court records?
- Resource: CourtConnect
All circuit courts and some district courts place records on CourtConnect. To use this portal, visit the website, enter names of those involved and provide additional information like the judge’s name to narrow the search results. Forty circuit courts, plus district courts from six counties, and two counties with probate all provide in-depth records on this platform.
District courts that offer full information include:
- Crawford County
- Craighead County
- Crittenden County
- Faulkner County
- Garland County
- Hot Spring County
- Independence County
- Poinsett County
- Polk County
- Pulaski County (Little Rock Department)
- Van Buren County
- White County (Searcy Department)
Circuit courts that offer full information include:
- Hot Spring
- St. Francis
A full list of circuit courts that provide full information on CourtConnect is available on the Administrative Office of the Courts website.
Another 20 courts provide partial information, like a case id, case description, and judge’s name, but not full case information.
If you have questions while using the portal, direct your questions to the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Available cases include civil, criminal, domestic relations, and probate; case images are available for some records.
If you can’t find the court case that you’re looking for on public CourtConnect, you’ll need to request information from the court that heard the case.
Arkansas vital records
Vital records are kept on file by the state to mark milestones like birth, marriage, divorce, and death. When these events happen, a person is issued a certified copy of the record. When parents have a child, for example, a certified birth certificate is sent to the parents.
However, sometimes people lose these paper records and need a new one. If that’s the case, a request for a new record can be placed.
Vital records are public, but they aren’t released as easily as other records. If you want a copy of a vital record, you need to be listed on the record, be a family member, or legally represent the person or family member.
What information is needed to request a vital record?
Ready to request a vital record? If you meet the criteria mentioned above, you still need to provide information to state officials to get access. You’ll need to provide the following:
- Full names before first marriage of both spouses
- Date of marriage
- County where marriage license was issued
- Your name
- Your signature
- Address where the certificate is to be mailed
- Your daytime phone number
Where can a person find Arkansas vital records?
- Resource: Arkansas Department of Health
You can order a certified copy of vital records online through the Department of Health. The department has several links that can facilitate needs for birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, or divorce certificates. There is a fee for these records. Expect to pay between $10-$25 per certificate.
Frequently asked questions about Arkansas records
To further assist your search, here are FAQs about public records in Arkansas:
Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?
No. The State of Arkansas does not allow non-residents to request or access public records or conduct a public records search, as of a 2013 supreme court ruling.
Arkansas is one of few states that still have this clause in its public records law. Just two other states, Virginia and Tennessee, won’t allow out-of-state residents to request public documents.
Is there a records custodian in Arkansas?
Yes. The state does have a records custodian that’s available in each department.
What exemptions exist?
The state has a fairly broad law and doesn’t specify any exemptions. It simply says that all public bodies, which includes the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government, must all provide public access to records.
There are cases where records requested from an organization have been deemed exempt because an organization is not a public body.
How long does that state have to respond?
The state has three business days to respond to a request. It’s one of the fastest response times in the United States.
Is there an appeal process in place?
Yes. If a request is denied, the requestor must appeal immediately. The appeal is sent to the Pulaski County Circuit Court or the circuit court located in the requestor’s county. A court date is then set within seven days where a judge decides on the record’s access.
It’s also possible to appeal a delay, should the request not be handled in a timely manner.
What fees are associated with requesting public records?
Arkansas has a strict policy on fees associated with viewing or copying public records. The law says the public body may cover the actual cost to reproduce records but can’t charge a search or retrieval fee.