In the Midwestern United States, Ohio is the 7th most populous state in the country with over 11.5 million residents. This 17th U.S. State is named for the Ohio River and was originally partitioned from the Northwest Territory. The state capital and largest city is Columbus, and the state is the country’s largest producer of appliances, plastics, electrical equipment, and rubber. Ohio has long made provisions for the sharing of its records with the public.
Ohio has been preserving records for sharing with the public since the early 1800s, before it was a U.S. State. Common law access to public records was established in 1901, and state law made it official with the Open Records Law in 1963, which is found in Chapter 149.43 of Title 1 of the State Code. The law allows “any person” to inspect or copy public records in Ohio. The intent of the request isn’t relevant, and records may be employed for any reason once obtained.
Public records included under the law cover records from any public office in the state, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Records that are not subject to the Act, or are exempt, include:
Background checks in Ohio are conducted by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). The BCI provides fingerprint-based checks through its electronic WebCheck system for licensing, pre-employment, and other public safety decisions. WebCheck background services are available at approximately 100 deputy registrar locations in Ohio. These reports return Ohio offenses only and require the consent of the person being checked.
To discover information about the prison system in Ohio, search for an offender, or learn about services for victims, visit the Ohio Department of Corrections webpage. If you are searching for an offender in the Ohio system, there is a search page that will allow you to enter search terms such as Name, County, Zip Code, Status, and DOC#. You will be provided with a picture, if available, the offenders location, offense information, Admission Date, and Earliest Release Date.
Information on Ohio courts and court records on cases in Ohio can be obtained from the administrator of the courts site. Supreme Court cases can be searched through their online database. There is another website called OhioCourtLinks.org that has links to many of the other courts in the state and records searches are available for some of those courts. Copies of actual case files can be obtained by making a request from the clerk of the court in the original presiding courthouse.
Vital records in Ohio, such as birth certificates and death certificates, can be obtained from the Ohio Department of Health, Vital Statistics Office. Birth certificates are accessible from December 20, 1908 to present and Death certificates from January 1, 1954 to present. There are no relationship requirements to request these documents, but social security numbers are not provided on certificates. There are several ways to request any of these records in Ohio:
The Office of Vital Statistics does not maintain marriage or divorce records. Marriage certificates should be requested from the County Probate Clerk where the marriage occurred, and divorce certificates need to be requested from the County Clerk of the Courts in the county where the divorce took place. If you are not sure which county the marriage or divorce took place in, the Office of Vital Statistics may be able to search in the index from 1950 to present for marriages and 1954 to present for divorces to locate this for you.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
You may also be able to get some divorce records in Puerto Rico from the local courthouse where the original divorce was granted.
Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law (RTKL) grants individuals the statutory right to inspect and copy the public records of Pennsylvania. Individuals requesting access to Pennsylvania public records do not need to divulge their reasons for requesting the information, as the request cannot be denied based on these grounds.
Public records from all commonwealth, legislative, local and judicial agencies can be requested, as well as records from state boards, authorities, schools and offices. Documents considered to be public records consist of any map, book, tape, photograph, sound recording, film or electronic media created, retained or received in connection with a business activity or transaction of a state agency.
A request for public record may be denied, however, if an exemption prohibits the public disclosure of the information held within. For instance, any record that would result in an agency losing state or federal funds cannot be delivered upon request, as well as any information that would reasonably result in the risk of physical harm.
For more information regarding Pennsylvania’s public records law, examine Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law in its entirety.
The Pennsylvania State Police oversee and process requests for criminal history checks. The Pennsylvania Access To Criminal History (PATCH) tool, a database maintained by the Pennsylvania State Police, is searchable by registered and non-registered users. There is a non-refundable fee associated with every search, regardless of the outcome of the search, even if no record is found. Customers of the website will be charged for misspellings, user errors or duplicate submissions.
If a record is found, it will include all past convictions, all charges that are less than three years from the date of arrest and all charges with a current pending warrant issued. The database can be found on The Pennsylvania Access To Criminal History tool webpage of the Pennsylvania State Police website.
The Pennsylvania State Police are also responsible for overseeing and delivering all state issued background checks. More information regarding requesting a background check and criminal history record can be found on the Pennsylvania State Police website.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections collects jail and inmate records and makes them available to the public through a searchable online database. This database contains information regarding inmates currently under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. The database can be searched by last name, first name, sex, inmate number, location, date of birth and race. If a record is found, it will state the inmate’s race, date of birth, housing location, height, citizenship and complexion. The database can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections website.
More information regarding Pennsylvania’s jail and inmate records can be found within Pennsylvania’s Victim Notification Service (VINE) Profile.
Pennsylvania Court Records are overseen and distributed by the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania. Individual court case information can be searched for online with no fee. These searches contain information regarding civil cases, criminal cases, traffic cases, non-traffic cases and landlord-tenant cases. In order to search for Pennsylvania court records, visit the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania’s web portal.
More information regarding Pennsylvania courts can be found on the District Court Administrators page of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania’s website.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health maintains and distributes Pennsylvania Vital Records. These records include birth and death records dating back to 1906. Birth certificates can be requested by the person named on the certificate, as long as they are 18 years of age or older, or by a close family member or legal guardian. Death certificates may be requested by a legal representative of the decedent’s estate, immediate family members and those with Power of Attorney.
More information regarding how to request a Pennsylvania Vital Records can be found on the certificates page of the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
Criminal records contain pertinent information about a person’s criminal history. The following information can be found on 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.
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.
The information listed on an inmate record varies, but in Florida the records usually contain:
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 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.
The information on a court record can vary, but in Florida the most useful documents found inside a public court record include:
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.
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.
To obtain a Florida vital record, a person must provide certain information to aid in the search. The information needed includes:
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:
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.
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.
To make sure you’re able to access the records you want, here are answers to frequently asked questions:
Yes. Both residents and non-residents can request public documents in the state of 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.
The Florida Constitution doesn’t list any exemptions and assumes that all records are public.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.