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Minnesota is a little different in how it handles its public records because of various amendments to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA) since the law was first adopted. The intent was to make most everything publicly accessible, but lobbying efforts and lawmakers have added more than a few exemptions. It can be confusing as some offices don’t allow walk-in requests and require you to mail, email, or fax. 

Yet, other things most states typically list as private, such as government employee salary, are listed as public. Those needing to access records have a right to submit a request through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). We’ve created a state-specific guide to help a United States citizen understand how to find and request specific records. This guide provides direction on how to obtain criminal, court, inmate, and vital records.

What does the Minnesota public records law say?

The Minnesota law doesn’t have a citizenship requirement to request documents, so you can make a request from anywhere. However, there isn’t a specific response time either so you can be left waiting a while before your request is answered.

There are a myriad of exemptions in the legislative and judicial branches. Records from the legislature are exempt in many cases and many judicial records, such as domestic abuse records, judicial work product and court service records are exempt. The executive branch has no exemptions. 

You can make your FOIA request in person, in writing and online, depending on the agency involved.  Like other states, Minnesota can’t ask why you want records.

To learn more about conducting a public records search, you can visit

How can a person access public records in Minnesota?

For public records access in Minnesota, 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 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.

Minnesota criminal records

Some criminal records are available in Minnesota, although there are some specific exemptions. The most common need for a criminal records search is to get a job as many employers require it. There may be other reasons a background check is necessary including verifying some information before volunteering for certain charities or to implement a business contract or transact business with a particular vendor. 

What’s on a criminal record?

A criminal record details a person’s history with law enforcement. Details are extracted from several sources including local police departments for arrests, courts for trials and convictions and the state prison system for information about incarceration.

There are five basic things on a person’s criminal record. It will include basic personal information such as their name, birthday, and nationality. It will also have a mugshot and a full set of fingerprints. A criminal record will include specific distinguishing features like tattoos. It will also include listing of misdemeanor and felony offenses and a description of the crime. 

Where can a person find Minnesota criminal records?

Minnesota has a free online service offered by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Available information includes public data maintained by BCA with criminal conviction data available to the public for 15 years following the completion of a sentence. Available information includes:

  • Offenses
  • Courts of conviction
  • Dates of conviction
  • Sentencing information

The website doesn’t include information on arrests, juveniles, criminal history from other states, federal crime information, or data deemed private.

Minnesota inmate records

There are an estimated 9,849 inmates in the Minnesota prison system. Inmate records can be helpful if you are an employer and seek specific information about a person’s conviction and sentence. They can also be useful if you are a crime victim and want to know when the offender will be released or are involved in other court action with the inmate.

What’s on an inmate record?

Minnesota is like many states and has a variety of basic information available on its inmate records. Gaining access to these records will provide the following information:

  • Basic information including a name, a birthdate and gender
  • A mug shot and inmate location
  • Inmate registration number and jail transfer information
  • Custody status

Where can a person find Minnesota inmate records?

Minnesota has an online search site for people to look up offender information. Those seeking information will need the offender’s name or the inmate identification number to do an online search. It can take several business days to get a newly sentenced inmate into the online system, so be aware of the extra time required.

Minnesota court records

Court records contain valuable information that can be used for several different reasons. Employers may want to know details of a case involving a job applicant or others involved in a separate case may want details of other court action involving the individual. Some look up court cases to find out information about their parent’s past or other family members. 

What’s on a court record?

Court records are typically large files of information and can include documents from several courts, depending on the case. It can contain all court transcripts as well as information on all action in a case. Some of the documents requesters find in court files include dockets, court minutes, case files, court orders, sentencing or judgement documentation, jury records and files and witness documentation.

Where can a person find Minnesota court records?

The State of Minnesota has online access to its judicial branch case records through a public access site. On the site, you can access records from Minnesota District Courts, the Minnesota Appellate Courts, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and the Minnesota Supreme Court records. 

You can also find court records by going to the court where the case was heard and talking to the court clerk. In some cases, requesters feel it’s easier to call or visit a courthouse, especially if it’s to request district court records. 

Minnesota vital records

Vital records are some of the most commonly requested records. People need them for a variety of reasons such as getting a new driver’s license, a passport, getting married and getting a clearance check for a new job. Vital records include documents of life’s milestone events, so birth records, death records, marriage records and divorce records are all considered vital. 

Some older records related to genealogy make it more challenging to find as they may be archived.

What information is needed to request a vital record?

There are some privacy issues involving vital records so any requester will need some basic information to obtain these records. Information required includes:

  • The approximate date and location of the event
  • The full name of the person, including maiden names
  • A case file number for divorce records and a license number for marriage records. 

Where can a person find Minnesota vital records?

You can obtain vital records from the Minnesota Department of Public Health Office of Vital Records. There is no walk-in service at the Office of Vital Records and it only accepts applications by mail or fax. Applications for vital records are available on their website and include birth certificates and death certificates.

Marriage records can be accessed in the Minnesota Official Marriage System database and copies are available from the county issuing the marriage license. Divorce decrees are available for the county district court office. Be aware that not all court district offices accept credit or debit cards for payment of fees. Fees for these records are changing regularly and are not posted on Minnesota’s government website.

Frequently asked questions about Minnesota records

To further assist your search for public records, here are answers to frequently asked questions:

Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?

Yes, whether you live in St. Paul, Minneapolis, or Los Angeles, you can request records in Minnesota. 

Is there a records custodian in Minnesota?

No, there is no records custodian in Minnesota.

What exemptions exist?

There are many specific exemptions within the legislative and judicial branches even though neither are considered exempt branches. Documents related to the legislature are exempt in many cases and judicial documents related to domestic abuse records, judicial work product, and court service records are exempt. Administrative records relating to security, employees, and applicant records are also exempt. Requesters would need to look at the law to determine if a specific document is exempt.

How long does that state have to respond?

There is no specific time limit for the state to respond to a FOIA request.

Is there an appeals process in place?

Yes, you can appeal to the Commissioner of Administration. A requester can file an appeal up to two years after receiving a denial. 

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

Fees charged for various records in Minnesota can be a bit murky. There isn’t a charge to inspect records in person. There are charges for government employees to search and duplicate records electronically, but the agency can’t charge additionally for redacting records or spending time legally reviewing them before release. Fees are increasing all the time in the state, especially relating to search time and labor costs. There are no fee waivers for the media or those requests made in the public interest. 

  • Updated November 26, 2020
  • States

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Church Background Checks for Volunteers

Any sort of organization that has constant interaction with children is going to require some sort of background check or screening. In Churches, where there is so much focus on the youth ministry and schools, screening is required of all volunteers.

Here are the following steps you need to take to protect your ministry from those who wish to do harm to children

Establish a Background Check Process in Your Ministry

Your state may have specific requirements for your church, including fingerprinting. Check with your attorney or State Police before you begin the process.

  1. Establish who must undergo a background check
  2. Figure out what type of background check you are going to run.
  3. Determine how you will deal with matches on the background check.

What Type of Checks Should You Run on Church Volunteers?

At a minimum, you should run a national sex offender search and multistate criminal database search for your church. On a higher level, you should also run county level criminal felony and misdemeanor searches.

For church employees and those who deal with money, an employment credit report should also be ordered. Additionally, church employees should have every county of residence searched in the last 5 years.



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How Long Does an Employment Background Check Take

With more than 90 percent of employers running background checks on potential candidates, it’s important that you know what they’re looking for before you begin your job hunt. The same applies to banks where you’re seeking a loan and landlords when you’re trying to secure a new place to live. Background checks can make or break your eligibility for all of life’s necessities.

So what do you need to know about the length of your average review? Consider this your guide to understanding background checks.

Types of Background Check

The length of a background check will depend entirely on what kind of check is being run. There are several types:

Criminal Checks

These checks look for arrests, lawsuits, incarceration records and people on the sex offender registry. They typically take anywhere from 3-10 days depending on the agency doing the reporting and the amount of transgressions on record.

Citizenship Checks

More and more employers are requiring citizenship or visa checks to keep themselves from running afoul of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These checks are usually nothing more than a phone call or a Social Security number run through the federal E-Verify program, so they don’t take long at all.

Credit Checks

Checking an applicant’s credit can be a time-consuming process. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), employers have to get your permission for the review before any digging is done, and even after that you’re looking at a wait of 7-10 days for official processing.

Driving Checks

If you’re applying somewhere as a driver, your employer will need to check your driving record for tickets, accidents and DUIs/DWIs. Don’t expect this to happen any sooner than 48 hours, especially if the employer is having it bundled into an all-purpose background check that can take up to a week to deliver.

Employment Checks

Did you really work at that company? Hiring managers are allowed to check references, employment dates and even performance reviews. Unfortunately, there’s just no way to know how long it will your new employer to speak with your old one.

Education Checks

If you’re applying for an academic or highly technical position, your employer may want verification of your degree. These don’t take long for the schools to fax over, but keep in mind that their offices aren’t open on weekends, and not every request is processed right away.

Tenant Checks

Tenant screening takes place by landlords and homeowners who want to ensure that they’re renting to the right people. These checks look for things like income verification and good rental histories, and they usually take less than 72 hours.

Licensing Checks

Your employer may want to verify that you have the legal certification required for your job. These checks will look at issuance dates, location details and any disciplinary actions taken against you, and they typically take 3-10 days.

Types of Background Checker

In addition to choosing what kind of review to run, employers are often allowed to pick between several different methods of obtaining a background check.

Third-Party Agencies

Third-party agencies are usually the fastest with background checks. They use the Internet to comb through public records, so they typically have results within a matter of days; some agencies even run “instant” background checks that can be done in a matter of hours.

State Agencies

When employers want an official background check, they turn to the state. These reviews are ordered from places like the State Bureau of Identification (SBI) or the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS), and they typically take 7-10 business days to be mailed out.

Federal Agencies

Occasionally a bank or employer will require a background check from the FBI for the purpose of national security. These reviews take the longest; you won’t see results for 30 days or more.

Speeding Up Your Background Check

If you’re in a hurry for that new job, here are just a few ways to grease the wheels of the system:

– Fill out your forms properly. For example, don’t give your nickname or a shortened version of your name on official job applications. “Joe” isn’t in the state’s records; “Joseph” is.

– Offer as many identifiers as you can. Don’t be shy about giving out your birthday, address history or educational level. According to Security Magazine, this will keep you from being confused with other people of the same name.

– Be honest. This may sound obvious, but there’s no use in lying on a form when you’re going to be scrutinized in a background check anyway. Not only will you lose the job, but it can also slow things down when city officials confuse your records with another persons.

These are just a few things to keep in mind when wondering about the length of a background check. As you can see, it depends on a variety of factors, so be as patient as you can. Anxiety won’t make the results deliver themselves any faster.

MVR Driving Record

In today’s difficult environment, it is important for a company to make a firm commitment to risk management. Employee screening is one essential ingredient in an overall risk management program. By thoroughly screening a prospective hire, a company can ensure that they obtain honest, reliable employees.

A company with employee drivers should take every reasonable measure to make sure that these people are safe drivers to protect their business and reduce risks. Among these steps is the use of Motor Vehicle Records Checks to determine if an applicant has a good driving history. Employee driving records have become an important Fleet Safety Program component and can help protect a company against litigation after an accident.

The Basics

An MVR or Motor Vehicle Check shows a person’s driving history including valuable information about their driver’s license such as special endorsements, license class, current and past license statuses including cancellations, revocations and suspensions and any restrictions on their license.

Aside from that, it will also show valuable information about a person’s traffic violations including but not limited to vehicular crimes, accident reports, traffic citations, DUI convictions and driving record points. MVR checks might also show personal information such as an individual’s gender, date of birth, age, weight, height and hair and eye color.

They can also uncover unanswered or unpaid summons and insurance lapses. Usually, MVR checks only show information for a specific number of years. However, the time frame differs by the state. Additionally, employers should obtain a release from the applicant before an MVR check can be run.

The Statistics Do Not Lie

The importance of an MVR check cannot be denied. Companies should determine if their employee is a safe driver not only to protect their equipment but also their customers, clients and others that their workers may have contact with. This is because motor-vehicle crashes cost companies $60 billion annually in legal expenses, lost productivity, medical care and property damage. The average motor vehicle crash costs an employer approximately $16,500.

When an employee is involved in an on-the-job crash that results in an injury, the cost to their employer is $74,000. What is worse is that it can exceed $500,000 when a fatality is involved. That figure can soar to millions of dollars per incident if punitive damages are awarded. They are also liable for a negligent lawsuit. Such lawsuits also have the potential to destroy the reputation of a company.

The Benefits

It can be hard for a company to predict how an employee will handle their job in a real work setting. If their work requires driving, auto insurance can be involved as well that can significantly affect the operations of their business. Nobody is perfect at driving, but some people are definitely worse than others.

In many cases, driving history repeats itself. Running an MVR check helps a company predict any negative activity that has a higher probability of happening in the near future. At the very least, they can talk to the prospective employee about their driving history after knowing their record and resolving any issues and worries.

However, this does not just equate to peace of mind for business owners. Their insurance company worries about their employees as well. That worry usually translates to money. This is because insurance companies have access to MVR checks, and their premiums may be based on people’s driving history.

Companies may be penalized with higher premiums if their organization reflects poorly in this domain. Insurance is frequently a hazard to operational costs. Fortunately, knowing their employee’s MVR helps companies protect themselves.

Another Hidden Benefit

In addition to companies benefiting from having MVR checks done, prospective job applicants do as well. It prevents them from having unnecessary errors that blemish their identity. Even if their job does not necessarily involve driving, an employer may still want an idea of what is on their driving record.

Having errors on their record can hurt a person’s chances of getting a job. Even if there are no errors, every violation or ticket they have might not show up on record. Knowing what isn’t and what is on their record can help an person prepare for questioning by a prospective employer.

Releasing Time

MVR checks are usually returned within one to three business days from the order date. However, each U.S. state has its own regulations and rules as to how records are released and kept. This affects the turnaround time.

Other reasons for an MVR check to be delayed include name variations and missing or incorrect license numbers. Because motor vehicle licenses are issued by individual states, and each one of them maintains its own database driving records, MVR checks are done per state as there is no national driving record database. Companies should contact the individual Department of Motor Vehicles or comparable department in each state.

A Weakness

Each state has its own regulations and rules as to how Motor Vehicle Records checks are done. Additional forms may be necessary to perform them. What is worse is that some states do not permit a prospective employer to gain access to Motor Vehicle Reports. Because of this, some companies choose to order an MVR check from a reputable third-party company. These companies provide a much faster service. In addition, they perform these checks at a much lower price or sometimes for free.

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