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Ohio Public Records

Ohio started keeping records back in 1789. Some of the first records were property records and vital records like those that track births and deaths. Back then, records were kept on paper. Today, like most states, Ohio has embraced digital records. Back in the  1980s, the state started keeping electronic records and even started transferring old records to electronic ones.

Today, citizens of the United States can request Ohio records. You don’t need to live in Cleveland, Columbus, or any Ohio city to make a request.

To help people navigate the world of public records, which can be a little confusing, this guide can provide direction to criminal, inmate, court, and inmate records. 

What does the Ohio public records law say?

Ohio has a special history compared to other states in that its access to public records predates its actual statehood. A 1901 court decision stated explicitly that the public records are the people’s records, and unless there is a statute in place, the rights of the people to examine their records must remain in practice. 

It must be noted however, that in Ohio, there are quite a few statutes that can hamper a public records search. 

The public records act doesn’t provide a specific response time to a records request, it just says that request should be handled within a reasonable period of time.   

If a request for records is denied, there isn’t an administrative appeal process in the state, but requesters can pay $25 and file a complaint to the Ohio Court of Claims, which has seven days to respond, and 45 days to issue a decision that is legally binding. 

To learn more, visit Ohio.gov.

How can a person access public records in Ohio?

Some public records can be found online while others require a more formal request.

If a formal request is necessary, it can take place by mail, email, or by phone and should be directed 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, 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. 

Ohio criminal records

In Ohio, The Identification Division of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation provides the latest records to employers who want to run background checks on potential employees. The division acts as the central repository for all felony records within the state, maintaining fingerprints, photographs, and other information related to criminal records in Ohio.

What’s on a criminal record?

A criminal record provides a detailed report of a person’s interactions with law enforcement. These records are compiled from various sources and include arrest records, convictions, and incarcerations within the state’s nine prisons.

More specifically, a criminal record or a background check will provide the following information: 

  • Personal information like a person’s name, birth date, nationality, etc.
  • A mugshot and full set of fingerprints
  • A list of distinguishing features (tattoos, birthmarks, and other physical attributes)
  • The type of offense (misdemeanor or felony) and description of the crime

Where can a person find Ohio criminal records?

The Bureau of Crime Identification & Investigation (BCI&I), which is a subsidiary of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, offers WebCheck for civilian background checks. These checks are fairly quick, taking only a few hours to conduct, with the results available through the U.S. Postal Service. More information is available on Ohio’s WebCheck system

For requests for a complete set of fingerprints for criminal records, a business check, money order, or e-payment made out to the Treasurer of the State of Ohio for $22 will begin the process. 

If you can’t find what you’re looking for online, records can also be requested through the Sheriff’s Office in the county where the person lives. The fees associated with a request are minimal and some offices have no fees for background checks. 

Ohio inmate records

As the 6th largest prison system in America, Ohio operates 30 state prisons and possesses inmate records which comprise personal and official data of those that have been incarcerated by the state and held in Ohio’s jails, prisons, or penal institutions. The records of each inmate are typically held at the site of where the inmate resides and includes the following information:

  • Full name of detainee (plus any aliases)
  • Full physical descriptions (birthmarks, scars)
  • Mugshots
  • Details of arrest and booking
  • Primary and secondary charges
  • bail/bond conditions and relevant court and/or information on release

What’s on an inmate record?

The information listed on inmate records vary a bit from state to state; in Ohio the records usually contain a combination of personal information and specific details about a person’s incarceration situation. Public access to inmate records can provide the following information when accessed: 

  • Personal information like a person’s name, birthdate, and gender
  • A mug shot
  • Inmate location
  • Inmate registration number
  • Jail transfer information
  • Custody status

Where can a person find Ohio inmate records?

Inmate records in the state of Ohio can be searched through the Offender Search Tool that is available on the DRC website. To search for an inmate, input the inmate’s name and unique DOC number. The website is regularly updated. You can expect to find the location of a person, the jail’s contact information, inmate status, and any information regarding a release or pardon. 

Ohio court records

The Ohio Open Records Law passed in 1954 and guarantees that court records are available to any member of the public, thereby making it a fundamental right to all residents of Ohio. The records open to the general public include, sworn affidavits, documentation on allegations, and all proceedings taken under oath. 

In a small percentage of cases, court records may be sealed or may have redaction for certain circumstances.  

What’s on a court record?

In most cases, court records are quite large and come with several varying documents. Most people find these documents the most helpful: 

  • Court minutes
  • Case files
  • Dockets
  • Orders of the court
  • Judgement documentation
  • Jury records and files
  • Witness documentation

Where can a person find Ohio court records?

  • Resource: Visit county-specific websites

Finding court records in the state of Ohio is fairly complicated. While other states have created an online portal to house and search court records, Ohio has not. 

The best way to access court records is to search for the county court or municipal court where the case was heard. Some countries do have records available online. Franklin County, for example, has an online database of cases.  

If a county doesn’t have an online database, you need to speak with the county clerk or the clerk of courts and put in a records request.

The Ohio Supreme Court also provides an extensive number of court files online. To begin a search, visit the state’s supreme court website.

Ohio vital records

Ohio, as with most states, has an office in charge of maintaining birth records, marriage records, and death records. The Ohio Department of Health through The Bureau of Vital Statistics operates a statewide system for the registration of births, deaths, and other vital events within the state.

What information is needed to request a vital record?

A request for information can be done via the Ohio Bureau of Vital Statistics site, where interested parties can provide relevant information about a specific record. This information may include:

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

Where can a person find Ohio vital records?

Birth records from 1908 and death records from 1964 to present day are maintained at the Bureau of Vital Statistics, which also manages fetal death, heirloom birth, and stillbirth certificates as well. You can order certified copies of records online. You’ll make the request, pay a fee, and receive the copy in the mail. 

Notably, marriage and divorce records are not maintained at the Bureau of Vital Statistics. For certified copies of marriage licenses and divorce certificates, obtain them from the county where the event was recorded. Visit this listing of county clerks to determine where to request files. 

Frequently asked questions about Ohio records

To further understand the public records policy in Ohio, here’s a list of commonly asked questions: 

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

Yes, even non-residents are able to submit a request for records. 

Is there a records custodian in Ohio?

No.

What exemptions exist?

All of the public offices within the state of Ohio fall under public records law. 

How long does that state have to respond?

In Ohio, there is no set deadline for a response, but agencies typically respond very promptly.

Is there an appeals process in place?

There is no administrative appeal for the state of Ohio, but requesters do have the option of filing an appeal in the Ohio Courts of Claim for $25. Generally, fees associated with the actual costs materials, aside from labor, may be charged. 

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

The state of Ohio can charge for the cost of materials, but don’t charge for labor. 

  • Updated October 26, 2020
  • States

US Virgin Islands (USVI) Public Records

Officially the Virgin Islands of the United States, the USVI are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are classified as an organized, unincorporated U.S. territory.  The islands are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles of the Virgin Islands archipelago, and the USVI consists of the main islands of Saint Thomas, Saint Croix, and Saint John.  Tourism and rum manufacturing are the primary economic activities here, and the territory has a population of approximately 106,00 residents.  While U.S. citizens, those who reside here cannot vote in U.S. elections as the USVI is not a state.  The USVI does make provisions for the sharing of its records with the public.

US Virgin Islands (USVI)  Public Records Laws

Laws covering the sharing of public records in the U.S. Virgin Islands are covered under Title 3 of the Virgin Island Code (V.I.C.)  § 881.  The law states that “every citizen of the territory” has a right to examine and copy all public records.  The purpose of the request does not need to be disclosed, and there are no limitations placed on the use of the records once obtained.

Public records covered under the Code include those of all public agencies in the territory, including the executive and legislative branches.  The courts are not covered by this Code.  Records that are not included, or are exempt, are:

  • Records made confidential by courts or statute
  • Student records
  • Medical records
  • Trade secrets
  • Attorney work product
  • Investigatory reports
  • Property appraisals
  • Elderly and disabled adult abuse records
  • Security-related records


US Virgin Islands (USVI)  Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

Background checks are administered by the USVI Police Department Records Bureau.  A police record check can be requested by filling out the proper form.  This is a name-based search and does not require the signed consent of the person being searched.


US Virgin Islands (USVI)  Jail and Inmate Records

The USVI Police Department runs corrections in the territory, and there are two Detention Facilities – one St. Thomas that is classified as medium security and one on St. Croix.  There is not a way to do an online search for offenders in the system, but you can call (340) 778-2211 for information.


US Virgin Islands (USVI) Court Records

There are two separate court websites in the USVI, one for the District Court and another for the Superior Court.  Most individuals will be interested in superior court cases as these are the civil, criminal, family, probate, small claims, and traffic cases.  There are not really any online court records searches available, but you can turn in a Request for Records Search with the Acting Clerk of the Court for any desired court records.


US Virgin Islands (USVI)  Vital Records

Obtaining vital records in the U.S. Virgin Islands is going to depend on the type of record that you need and the particular island where the event took place.  In all instances, you must prove eligibility to obtain the record, such as being a party listed on the certificate, a parent or legal guardian, or other legal representative.

St. Thomas and St. John

  • Birth Certificates – Birth certificates are available from July 1906 to present.  You can send your completed application and payment to: Department of Health, Vital Statistics, Knud Hansen Complex, St. Thomas, VI  00802.
  • Death Certificates – Death certificates are available from January 1906 to present.  You can send your completed application and payment to: Department of Health, Vital Statistics in St. Thomas.
  • Marriage Certificates – Marriage certificates are available for a $2 fee (money order) from the courts.  There is no available form for this.  You can send your request to:  Clerk of the Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands, Family Division, P.O. Box 70, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, VI 00801.
  • Divorce Certificates – Divorce records are available for a $5 fee (money order) from the courts.  There is no available form for this.  You can send your request to:  Clerk of the Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands.

St. Croix

  • Birth Certificates – Birth certificates are available from 1840 to present.  You can send your completed application and payment to: Department of Health, Vital Statistics, Charles Harwood Memorial Hospital, St. Croix, VI 00820.
  • Death Certificates – Death certificates are available from 1840 to present.  You can send your completed application and payment to: Department of Health, Vital Statistics in St. Croix.
  • Marriage Certificates – Marriage certificates are available for a $2 fee (money order) from the courts.  There is no available form for this.  You can send your request to:  Chief Deputy Clerk, Family Division, Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands, P.O. Box 929, Christiansted, St. Croix, VI  00820.
  • Divorce Certificates – Divorce records are available for a $5 fee (money order) from the courts.  There is no available form for this.  You can send your request to:  Chief Deputy Clerk, Family Division, Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands in St. Croix.
  • Updated April 20, 2017
  • States

Puerto Rico Public Records

Located in the northeastern Caribbean, Puerto Rico is a United States territory that consists of the main island and several smaller islands.  Officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, this tropical locale is populated by 3.6 million people and is a popular tourist destination.  First claimed by Christopher Columbus and the Spanish in 1493, the island was ceded to the United States in 1898 following the Spanish-American War.  Puerto Rico is classified as an unincorporated U.S. territory under the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950.  The territory has a local constitution and its residents are U.S. citizens, but cannot vote in major U.S. elections.  Puerto Rico does make provisions for sharing its records with the public.

Puerto Rico Public Records Laws

 

The main public records act in Puerto Rico is called the Public Documents Administration Act, first passed in 1955 and amended in 2000, which is covered in Laws of Puerto Rico Annotated Title 3 Chapter 41 § 1001.   There are other provisions under Title 3 that also deal with the preservation and supply of public records.  There is also a short statement in Title 32 of the code that states that “every citizen” has a right to take a copy of public records.

Records subject to the Act are any public documents produced in the Commonwealth, and this applies to the executive, legislative and judicial branches.  There is no information on exemptions or exclusions with regards to public documents in this territory.

Puerto Rico Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

 

Background checks in Puerto Rico are administered by the Puerto Rico Police Department.  The criminal records checks are name-based checks, and Puerto Rico is now doing these online.   You do need to have an ID issued by the territory, such as a driver’s license, in order to use the system.  In the alternative, you can order a background check in person at the Puerto Rico Police Department, Ave F.D. Roosevelt 601, Cuartel General, San Juan, PR 00936-8166.

Puerto Rico Jail and Inmate Records

 

To learn about the correctional facilities in Puerto Rico, find information about inmates in the system, or get services for victims, visit the Puerto Rico Department of Corrections website.  There is no online search page to locate a specific offender in the system.  For assistance, you can call the Office of Control and Management of the correctional population at (787) 273-6464.

Puerto Rico Court Records

 

Any information on courts in the territory of Puerto Rico can be found on its administrator of the courts website.  The only online search that can be done is to the court calendar.   Specific case files and records requests will need to be made with the clerk of the court in the courthouse where the case was heard.

Puerto Rico Vital Records

Vital records, such as birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates, in Puerto Rico are administered by the Department of Health, Demographic Registry.  Birth, death, and marriage certificates are available from June 22, 1931 to present.  Divorce certificates are available from 1941 to present.  You must submit a complete application and show that you are an “interested party” in order to receive a certificate.  This means that you are either listed on the certificate or are an immediate family member, legal guardian, or legal representative.  There are several ways to obtain these documents:

  • In Person:  You can order in person at the Department of Health, Demographic Registry, 141 Barbosa Avenue, Lincoln Building, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 00925.
  • By Mail:  Simply download and complete the proper form and return it with copies of required documentation to:  Department of Health, Demographic Registry, P.O. Box 11854, Fernandez Juncos Station, San Juan, PR 00910.
  • Online:  Place your order and payment through VitalCheck.com.

You may also be able to get some divorce records in Puerto Rico from the local courthouse where the original divorce was granted.

Pennsylvania Public Records

Since it began recording public records in 1775, the state of Pennsylvania has an astounding 100 million public records that the general public has access to. Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law gives all citizens access to public records, but tracking them down can be tough. As in most states, public records are scattered across multiple state agencies and departments.

To make the process easier, we have compiled a state-specific guide to assist you in understanding the laws and provide instructions on how to access criminal, inmate, court, and vital records across the 67 counties in Pennsylvania. 

What does the Pennsylvania public records law say?

According to the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act, anyone is able to access the public records in the state, and this act covers all three branches of government with only certain court records exempted. Additional exemptions are listed for personal records, records that could compromise public safety, and documents that contain trade secrets. 

As far as response times from agencies are concerned, the state government must respond within five business days. 

If a request is denied, there is an appeals process. A requester can contact the state’s Office of Open Records, which can issue opinions to other agencies. In order to force records into disclosure, the requester must file a suit in court. 

In Pennsylvania, the fees associated with records requests are limited, with agencies only being able to charge for the actual costs of duplicating a record. This is more conservative than some states, which charge for staff time and resources. 

How can a person access public records in Pennsylvania?

Public records are available online or through a formal records request. If a request is required, 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. 

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. 

Pennsylvania criminal records

In the state of Pennsylvania, criminal records are most commonly accessed by employers who are looking to execute a background check on potential employees. To assist employees in finding a person’s criminal records, we’ve provided some information and resources below.

What’s on a criminal record?

A criminal record provides a detailed record of a person’s interactions with law enforcement. These records are pulled from various sources and include arrest records, convictions, and incarcerations within the state’s four prisons. 

More specifically, a criminal record or a background check will provide the following information: 

  • Personal information like a person’s name, birthday, nationality, etc.
  • A mugshot and full set of fingerprints
  • A list of distinguishing features like tattoos and other physical attributes
  • The type of offense (misdemeanor or felony) and description of the crime

Where can a person find Pennsylvania criminal records?

Criminal records in Pennsylvania are official documents that contain the details of the criminal activity of a single person and are kept at every level of every jurisdiction – from municipal, county, and state levels. They are gathered from all types of criminal courts from across the county and state.

The Pennsylvania State Police maintain the records and provide an online database to conduct a search. Through the Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History (PATCH), requesters can apply for criminal background checks on an individual. 

It is also possible to access dispositions on criminal cases by reviewing court docket sheets that are located at the Pennsylvania Judiciary web portal

Pennsylvania inmate records

Inmate records in Pennsylvania consist of offenders that are held across the prisons, correctional inmate facilities, parish jails, and other penal institutions throughout the state. They may also include information on sentencing, the class of the offense, the parish where a case was tried, and the facility location of the inmate. 

What’s on an inmate record?

The information listed on an inmate record varies, but in Pennsylvania the records usually contain a combination of personal information and specific details about a person’s incarceration situation. Public access to inmate records can provide the following information when accessed: 

  • Personal information like a person’s name, birthdate, and gender
  • A mug shot
  • Inmate location
  • Inmate registration number
  • Jail transfer information
  • Custody status

Where can a person find Pennsylvania inmate records?

Pennsylvania criminal records are organized through online record depositories which can be accessed through the courts, law enforcement agency buildings, or government databases. 

The Inmate/Parolee Locator serves as the database which contains information on every inmate and parolee within the state that is currently under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections (DOC). The site is updated on a daily basis to ensure accuracy. 

Pennsylvania court records

Court records in Pennsylvania include a multitude of information produced through court proceedings. For people that are searching for certain court records, there are resources listed below. It’s important to note that court records can be some of the most difficult records to procure since they are usually held across several courts in the state of Pennsylvania. 

What’s on a court record?

In the majority of cases, court records are quite large and come with several varying documents. Most people find these documents the most helpful: 

  • Court minutes
  • Case files
  • Dockets
  • Orders of the court
  • Judgement documentation
  • Jury records and files
  • Witness documentation

Where can a person find Pennsylvania court records?

Requesting court records is usually the most difficult request. It’s not uncommon for a state to require requesters to visit a specific courthouse, like a county court, to request records in person. However, Pennsylvania has many of its records online.

A public records search for court documents in this state can return information on civil cases, traffic cases, criminal cases, landlord-tenant cases, and non-traffic cases. You can search and view individual court case information free of charge by visiting the portal, where you will be able to find the following records:

  • Appellate court case information (supreme court, superior court and commonwealth court);
  • Criminal courts of common pleas 
  • Magisterial district court case information including:
    • civil cases
    • criminal cases
    • traffic cases
    • non-traffic cases
    • landlord/tenant cases

Requesters that wish to order paper case records that are maintained by a magisterial district court office need to speak with someone at the courthouse. For complex requests, the magisterial district court may ask you to fill out a request form.

Pennsylvania vital records

Similarly to most states, Pennsylvania has an office that keeps track of its vital records. The vital records include birth records, marriage records, and death records. 

What information is needed to request a vital record?

A request for information can be done via Pennsylvania’s State Registrar & Vital Records site, where interested parties can provide relevant information about a specific record. This information may include:

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

Where can a person find Pennsylvania vital records?

As the official custodian of vital records for the state of Pennsylvania, the Bureau of Health Statistics and Registries, which is overseen by the department of health, has been in charge of files since 1906. Through their online portal, it is possible to obtain birth certificates, death certificates, certified copies of marriage licenses, and fetal death certificates. 

Marriage and divorce certificates for the state are available from any county courthouse in the state where the document was issued. 

Frequently asked questions about Pennsylvania records

To further assist citizens in their search for public records within the state of Pennsylvania, here’s a list of commonly asked questions: 

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

Yes. The freedom of information act gives every citizen the right to access records.

Is there a records custodian in Pennsylvania?

No, there is no designated records custodian for the state. 

What exemptions exist?

Currently, there are 30 exemptions in Pennsylvania, with 39 statutory exclusions, making it one of the more specific than most states in regards to public records laws. Some of the exempted files include donor information, private information of employees, trade secrets, work files of public servants, records that would potentially compromise computer network security, and more. 

How long does that state have to respond?

The state of Pennsylvania has five days to respond to any requests for documents. 

Is there an appeals process in place?

Yes, but only after you have gotten an opinion from the Office of Open Records.

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

The fees for requesting public records in Pennsylvania are somewhat limited, with agencies only charging for the price of duplicating records. There may be no charges for the reviewal of documents or searching for them. Extensive searches may incur more costs if outside professionals are involved. As for appeals, they are possible, but only after you receive an opinion from the Office of Open Records. 

  • Updated November 16, 2020
  • States
3

Michigan Public Records

Michigan Public Records Laws

Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) grants anyone the statutory right to inspect and copy public records unless the requester is incarcerated in a local or state correctional facility. The governmental bodies that are included under the Freedom of Information act include any Michigan agency, division, department, or commission in the executive and legislative branches of the state government. Additionally, the records of all bodies created or funded by primarily by the state or local authorities can be accessed as well.

Public records are defined rather narrowly in Michigan, consisting of any writing that has been used, owned, retained or possessed by a public body during the performance of an official function. This includes computerized data, but it does not include software.

There are also multiple exemptions that can be levied by the government officer who controls the access to public records in order to deny a request. Although these exemptions vary widely, they include not disclosing any medical, psychological or counseling information that would reveal a person’s identity, as well as not giving out the academic records of anyone that is delinquent on student loan payments.

For more information regarding Michigan’s public records law, examine Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act in its entirety.

Michigan Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

The Michigan State Police are responsible for storing and providing access to criminal history checks in the state of Michigan. They utilize The Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT), which allows for searches of public criminal history by name or by fingerprint. All felonies and serious misdemeanors are required to be reported to the state, and they are therefore searchable within the database.

The Internet Criminal History Access Tool does not supply information about federal records, juvenile records, tribal records, traffic records or criminal history from other states. In addition, a fee for each search will be charged upon request.

The Michigan State Police, Criminal Justice Information Center is responsible for overseeing state issued background checks. More information regarding criminal history records searches, name-based background checks and fingerprint-based background checks can be found on the Michigan State Police website.

Michigan Jail and Inmate Records

The Michigan Department of Corrections and the Michigan Sheriff’s office in each county manage the Michigan inmate and jail records. An online searchable database has been provided by the Department of Corrections, and it contains information regarding an inmate such as sex, name, race, age, identifying marks, scars, and DOC number. A name-based search will include release date, parole date and location of the inmate as well. The searchable database for Michigan inmates can be found on the Michigan Free Public Records Directory website.

More information regarding Michigan’s jail and inmate records can be found within Michigan’s Victim Notification Service (VINE) Profile.

Michigan Court Records

The distribution and processing of requests for Michigan Court Records are responsibilities of the Michigan Courts. A searchable online database has been provided by the Michigan Courts, and it allows individuals to search for case records by either party name, docket number or attorney name. The online database can be found on the Michigan Courts Case Search webpage.

The Michigan State Court Administrative Office can be contacted for further clarification regarding accessing court records or other court focused concerns.

Michigan Vital Records

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for maintaining, overseeing and issuing Michigan Vital Health Records. These records include birth, death, marriage and divorce records, with records dating back to 1867.

Records can be ordered online using a credit or debit card. Applications may also be sent by mail as long as they are accompanied by a payment. Information regarding the procurement of Michigan Vital Records can be found on the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services website.

Florida Public Records

Just about every country and culture has a method of record-keeping. For various reasons, like collecting taxes or tracking crime rates, records have proven a valuable resource for federal, state, and local governments to keep. 

As citizens, you can access many of these records. The Freedom of Information Act, which passed back in the 60s has made it easier for people to access records, although it’s still a bit of a challenge. Records are kept by different departments, some are online and some are still in hard copy, and some public officials aren’t quick to deliver public files.

In Florida, as with other states, different records are held by many different departments. Accessing public records in the state of Florida will depend on the kind of information you’re looking for. 

To help, here’s some direction on locating and reviewing official records in The Sunshine State.

What does the Florida public records law say?

The Florida Constitution contains open government laws, which include the Public Records Law. This law states that any records made or received by any public agency in the course of its official business are available for inspection unless specifically exempted by the Florida Legislature. 

The law, called the Sunshine Law, can be found in Chapter 286 of the Florida statutes. 

This law includes access to traditional written documents such as papers, maps, books, tapes, photographs, film, sound recordings, and records stored in computers, according to Florida law. 

The attorney general prints a manual that explains the state’s open government laws and includes any updates made. 

How can a person access public records in Florida?

For public records access in Florida, a person must submit a public records request. The request is sent via mail, email, mail, or by phone to the Public Records Coordinator, which in this case is in Tallahassee. In some states, this person is called a Custodian of Public Records, but the title varies by state. 

The 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

In some cases, it’s best to make requests by email, especially since offices may have different hours to due COVID-19. 

There is a copy fee of $0.20 per double-sided copy, but fees are waived if the cost is under $7

Florida criminal records

Florida criminal records provide a list of criminal activity for a specific person. The records contain any misdemeanor and felony offenses and include arrest data, indictment history, and conviction information.  

What’s on a criminal record?

Criminal records contain pertinent information about a person’s criminal history. The following information can be found on Florida criminal records: 

  • Personal information like a person’s name, birthday, nationality, etc.
  • A mugshot and a full set of fingerprints
  • A list of distinguishing features like tattoos and other physical attributes
  • The type of offense (misdemeanor or felony) and description of the crime

Where can a person find Florida criminal records?

To look at criminal records, visit the Florida Criminal History Record Check website, which is maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Public access to this information costs $25 per record check. The most helpful tool is the Instant Search, where files are retrieved after entering a person’s name.  

Florida inmate records

Inmate records provide a look at a person’s criminal history and incarceration information. These records do provide some of the same information as a criminal record, but also provide specifics about incarceration time. 

Some records are public and some must be requested by a person or a court. 

What’s on an inmate record?

The information listed on an inmate record varies, but in Florida the records usually contain: 

  • Personal information like a person’s name, birth date, and gender
  • A mug shot
  • Inmate location
  • Inmate registration number
  • Jail transfer information
  • Custody status

Where can a person find Florida inmate records?

The Florida Department of State keeps all criminal justice records, which includes inmate records and arrest records. The state has put together a list of jails and gives you the ability to search inmate records, and in some counties, arrest records can be searched for and viewed too.  

Florida court records

Florida court records give people a chance to review court documents and proceedings. They’re created for both criminal and civil trials in local, county, state, and federal courts.

While court records are available to the public through the Sunshine Act, the records can be sealed or expunged, which means you wouldn’t be able to access the record. Usually, this happens if the information puts someone at risk, like victims of a crime or juveniles. 

These records aren’t all kept by one particular court or in one repository. Instead, people can gain access to records by checking in with the county, circuit, Court of Appeals, or Supreme Court, depending on where the case was argued. 

What’s on a court record?

The information on a court record can vary, but in Florida the most useful documents found inside a public court record include: 

  • Court minutes
  • Case files
  • Dockets
  • Orders of the court
  • Judgment documentation
  • Jury records and files
  • Witness documentation

Where to find Florida court records

For people interested in inspecting court records in Florida, the state suggests visiting the courthouse where the case is taking place and requesting the documents in person from the clerk of court, county clerk, or the clerk’s office.

Some county records can be found online. In some cases, counties maintain an online records portal. Miami-Dade County, for example, has its own site with the ability to search government records using names and keywords. It’s a good idea to search for a similar site in the county you’re looking for. 

Florida vital records

Vital records government issued records that document life events like birth, marriage, or divorce. Not all vital records are public. Usually, records are only released to people listed on the record, a family member of those listed on the document, or a government official. 

What information is needed to request a vital record?

To obtain a Florida vital record, a person must provide certain information to aid in the search. The information needed includes: 

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

Where can a person find Florida vital records?

To access records that record life events like birth, marriage, and death, you need to review vital records. In Florida, the State Department of Health maintains these records. This department can provide access to the following information: 

  • Birth certificates
  • Death certificates and death records
  • Marriage certificates and marriage records
  • Divorce records

The state uses a system known as VitalChek to provide this information. Requests can be made right on the website. There is a fee for each request. Fees vary by the record. 

Where to find additional public records for Florida

Florida state has indexed dozens of pieces of public information on its Florida Information Locator. People can access everything from lists of abandoned properties to zip code directories. 

Frequently asked questions about Florida records

To make sure you’re able to access the records you want, here are answers to frequently asked questions:

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

Yes. Both residents and non-residents can request public documents in the state of Florida. 

Is there a records custodian in Florida?

In Florida, any person who has custody of a public record must share it. The title, records custodian, isn’t used, but access should still be granted. 

What exemptions exist?

The Florida Constitution doesn’t list any exemptions and assumes that all records are public. 

How long does that state have to respond?

Some states spell out a window of time that the state must respond to a request for information. However, Florida is not one of those states. The state constitution says all requests must be handled “promptly” and every effort should be made to see if a record exists and if so, it should be delivered to the person requesting it in a timely manner. 

What kind of enforcement is in place?

Florida doesn’t have much of any enforcement in place when it comes to appeals or denials for information. 

If, for example, you’re denied access to public records, there is no appeal process. Several states spell out an appeal process, but Florida doesn’t. 

The state offers a mediation program through the attorney general’s office to resolve potential disputes.

What fees are associated with requesting Florida public records?

In Florida, the cost to duplicate documents is $0.15 per one-sided page and $0.20 for double-sided pages, and $1 per certified copy. Florida law also provides clearance for additional fees if a request comes in that ties up extensive resources.

  • Updated September 15, 2020
  • States

New York Public Records

New York Public Records Laws

New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) grants individuals the statutory right to inspect and copy New York’s public records. There are no limitations in place as to who can request access to this information.

The government bodies included within the bounds of the Freedom of Information Law include any state or municipal board, bureau, division, commission, committee or authority. The term public record is defined as any information that has been held, filed, produced or created by any agency mentioned above. Each agency is required to maintain records on the voting practices, names, titles and salaries of their employees.

While the definition of public record is quite broad, there are multiple exemptions which could hinder one’s ability to gain access to a source of information. For instance, any records that would interfere with bid or contract awards cannot be disclosed, as well as any information that would potentially compromise an ongoing law enforcement investigation.

In order to more fully understand New York’s public records law, examine New York’s Freedom of Information Law in its entirety.

New York Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

New York Criminal Records are maintained and distributed by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). Individuals can request to see their own criminal record, and they will then either be delivered with their record or a response of “no record” indicating that they do not have a criminal history record in the state of New York.

While individuals cannot ask for another person’s criminal history records, there are certain allowances for employment and licensing purposes. If a criminal history record is requested for purposes of employment or licensing, the request will be granted if there is a state law, local law or federal law of a New York State town, village, city or county that authorizes a fingerprint-based criminal history search for these instances.

The New York State Division of State Police oversees the maintenance and distribution of New York arrest records. These records are releasable to individuals involved in the arrest or to a person with a legitimate interest as stated by the Public Officers Law.

The New York Criminal State Division of Criminal Justice Services is responsible for overseeing and distributing state issued background checks.

New York Jail and Inmate Records

The New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision is responsible for maintaining and distributing New York jail and inmate records. Individuals seeking record information regarding inmates can utilize the name-based search tool available on the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision website. Searches can be done according to last name, first name, birth year, or department identification number.  A search result for an inmate will supply the sex, race, custody statistics, holding location and release facility of the person in question. It will also show their minimum and maximum sentences, as well as the earliest possible release date. Parole information may or may not be available.

More information regarding New York’s jail and inmate records can be found within New York’s Victim Notification Service (VINE) Profile.

New York Court Records

State and county level court records are held and overseen by the New York State Unified Court System. Electronic access to a wide array of court records, such as judicial decisions, case files, judicial decisions and other case information, is available on the New York State Unified Court System website.

More information regarding New York’s court records can be found on the website for the New York Office of Court Administration.

New York Vital Records

New York Vital Records are overseen by the New York State Department of Health. They consist of birth, death, marriage, divorce, fetal death and still birth certificates. Birth and death certificates are available from 1881, marriage licenses are available from 1880 and dissolution of marriage certificates are available from 1963.

Requests for New York Vital Records can be made in person, online or by mail, and more information regarding how to request vital records is available on the New York State Department of Health website.

  • Updated September 11, 2018
  • States

New Jersey Public Records

New Jersey Public Records Laws

As written in New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA), only New Jersey citizens can access New Jersey’s public records. Convicts, however, cannot request any information regarding the personal information of a victim or family member of a victim to their offense.

The government bodies included in New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act include any principal department of the executive branch of state government, as well as any division, board, office, commission or bureau of the state. Also, any independent state agency, authority or instrumentality is included. New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act does not, however, cover the records of New Jersey courts.

A New Jersey custodian of records, the individual who is responsible for processing public records requests, can deny a request if it is in violation of an exemption. Many exemptions exist, including not divulging trade secrets or any information regarding sexual harassment complaints or grievances.

For more information regarding the public records law of New Jersey, examine New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act in its entirety.

New Jersey Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

New Jersey criminal records are maintained and distributed by the State Bureau of Identification (SBI), which is overseen by the New Jersey State Police (NJSP). If an individual wishes to request their own personal criminal record, then they must be fingerprinted at a Live Scan location that has been approved by the state and deliver a form and fee.

The criminal records of New Jersey are restricted, and are therefore not made available to the public. Requests of criminal records for third parties can only be placed by authorized government and  state agencies, as well as authorized law enforcement units and employers.

The New Jersey State Bureau of Identification is responsible for overseeing and maintaining state issued background checks, and they operate under the New Jersey State Police.

New Jersey Jail and Inmate Records

Inmate and Incarceration records in New Jersey are handled by the New Jersey Department of Corrections. An inmate can be looked up online using the Department of Corrections Offender Search system. This database is maintained by the information provided by the New Jersey Department of Corrections and law enforcement.

The Offender Search database can supply inmate information regarding name, date of birth, race, gender and type of offense. It will also indicate which facility is currently holding the inmate, their maximum release date, parole eligibility and mandatory sentence terms.

More information regarding New Jersey’s jail and inmate records can be found within New Jersey’s Victim Notification Service (VINE) Profile.

New Jersey Court Records

The New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts maintains court records, calendars, opinions, schedules, attorney regulations and trial court decisions. Accessing New Jersey court records can be achieved by filing a request with the Office of the Superior Court. Civil, family, criminal and municipal court records are all available for public review.

More information regarding obtaining or requesting court records can be found on the New Jersey Administrative Office of Courts website.

New Jersey Vital Records

New Jersey Vital Records are overseen by the State of New Jersey Department of Health. Birth, death and marriage records are available from 1915 to present, while domestic partnership and civil union records date back to 2004 and 2007 respectively. Certificate of birth resulting in stillborn records are available starting in 1969.

Vital records may be requested through the local vital records office in the municipality in which the event occurred. The State of New Jersey Department of Health has provided an online locating device to aid in finding local registrars. This tool is available on the Department of Health’s Local Vital Records Offices webpage.

  • Updated September 11, 2018
  • States
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