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Illinois

Illinois Public Records Laws

Illinois’s Freedom of Information Act (IL FOIA) grants individuals the statutory right to access, inspect and copy many government documents and materials. Additionally, anyone who places a request for public documents does not need to disclose their reasoning for desiring the information they are searching out.

Individuals looking to access public records are entitled to view and copy any records in association with public bodies such as state universities and colleges, cities, townships and villages, as well as executive, legislative and administrative government agencies. The designation of an item as public record is rather broad, and it includes any maps, books, photographs, cards, tapes, microfilms, electronic media or other materials that have been sent, received or stored by a public body.

While many documents and materials are accessible, some exemptions apply that allow a government body to deny a request for public records. These exemptions include not supplying trade secrets, financial information or any answer keys that could be used to compromise the validity of a formal test. Although these exemptions apply to many documents, a public body must still present any portion of an otherwise exempt document that does not violate any exemptions.

For more information regarding the public records laws of Illinois, examine chapter 5, act 140 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes in its entirety.

Illinois Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

The Illinois Uniform Conviction Information Act (UCIA) mandates that all criminal history records conviction information that has been maintained or collected by the Illinois State Police be made available to the public. These public records only contain conviction information, however, and do not supply other instances of interaction with law enforcement.

In order to acquire criminal records, there must be a request form and fee payment delivered to the Illinois Bureau of Identification. Request forms can either be non-fingerprint or fingerprint based, the latter confirming positive identification of the person to whom the fingerprints on the request form belong.

The Illinois State Police are also responsible for issuing state background checks, and they have created a guide to examining Illinois background checks.

Illinois Jail and Inmate Records

Illinois jail and inmate records can be found through the Illinois Department of Corrections. A name-based search database has been created for online inmate searches, and it can be accessed on the Illinois Department of Corrections website.

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

Illinois Court Records

Illinois Court Records at the state and local levels can be obtained by submitting a written request to the clerk at the court in which the case was held. They will usually be able to supply individuals with this form upon request. Many records are accessible by right, but rights of access do not cover all court records in Illinois.

The contact information for the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts can be found on the Illinois Courts government webpage.

Illinois Vital Records

Vital Records are handled by the Illinois Department of Public Health and include birth records, death records, marriage records, dissolution of marriage records, adoption records, genealogy records, civil union records and dissolution of civil union records. The earliest Illinois birth and death records on file date back to 1877, with formal state registration beginning in 1916. Birth records are not public records in the state of Illinois, and only very few people are entitle to receive copies of them. Birth certificates older than 75 years, however, can be accessed for purposes of genealogical research.

Illinois vital records can be accessed by placing a request through the county clerk’s office.

Let’s also look at the details of employment background checks conducted in Illinois.

Eligibility for Employment in Illinois

IL is an employment “at will” state meaning that employment can be terminated at any time by either the employer or employee– although the employer cannot discharge an employee based on race, age, sex, or disability. Generally, one must be at least 16 years of age to be employed. Exceptions are granted to minors– specifically 14 and 15 year-old– working in non-hazardous professions and only working during non-school hours. Professions deemed hazardous include ones that may seem less than obvious such as working at an ice-skating rink or bowling alley.

Drug Screening

There is no law that requires nor prohibits employers from conducting a drug screening in Illinois. Many may fall prey to the misconception that the Illinois Drug Free Workplace Act enforces a drug test; rather, it simply states that workplaces must be free from drugs. If one is to do drugs off the job, they don’t fit this provision. This law applies to employers with 25 or more employees, and mirrors a federal law called the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988.

Employers that qualify under the Illinois Drug Free Workplace Act must:

  • publish a statement announcing the drug free workplace policy
  • post and distribute the notice/statement to all employees involved in contract or grant work with the state/ federal government
  • establish a drug free awareness program to inform employees of potential penalties, available counseling, and dangers of drug use in the workplace
  • notify the contracting or granting agency of any criminal drug convictions of employees
  • impose penalties or require employees to complete a rehabilitation program in response to any such convictions
  • assist employees if drug 5 counseling, treatment and rehabilitation are required
  • make a good faith effort at maintaining a drug free workplace.

Background Screening in Illinois

In Illinois, employers may consider prior convictions when making employment decisions. However, use of arrest information or sealed or expunged convictions is prohibited. As long as a firm gets permission from the subject who is being checked, said firm can obtain criminal background checks from either a private firm or the IL state police. Background screenings can be made required in order to advance in the employment process.

If one is a non-licensed health care worker providing direct care to patients in Illinois, they are required to have criminal background checks performed by the Illinois State Police. The same rule of conducting criminal background checks applies to individuals applying for positions involving direct, daily contact with students anywhere within a school district in Illinois.

Medical and Psychiatric Exams for Determination of Employment

Medical and psychiatric exams can be used to screen applicants to see if they would be able to perform the position in question safely and efficiently. However, under no circumstances may such an exam discriminate against an applicant with disabilities. A safeguard against discrimination occurring has become the implementation of such a test only after a position has already been offered. In other words, employments at that point is conditional upon passing the test of ability. As long as the applicant can perform the conditions of the job safely and efficiently either with or without reasonable accommodation, an employer may not discriminate based upon disability.

If an employer uses medical and psychiatric exams, they must use them on all applicants. Additionally, they must come last in terms of all other types of screening used– this is also separately required by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers must make reasonable accommodations when appropriate, and take all necessary steps to keep medical information confidential. This includes medical examinations and test results. The doctor performing any medical examination should be informed of the precise nature and demands of the position so that they can examine the applicant in terms of the specific job requirements.

Other Laws and Screenings

Illinois used to be a state in which one could be screened for employment in terms of credit score. However, in 2010, then IL Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill into law that prohibited such a practice. There are certain exceptions to this rule, which include positions in which bonding or security is required per state or federal law, where there is unsupervised access to more than $2,500, signatory power over businesses assets of more than $100, management or control over the business, and access to personal, financial or confidential information, trade secrets, or state or national security information. If an employer does request a credit check, the page on which the job applicant signs must only concern the credit check– e.g. nothing else extraneous may be on the page.

Outside of Illinois, credit checks have been fairly popular in practice, with over 60 per cent of employers doing one in some regard.

  • Updated September 11, 2018
  • States

North Carolina

Whether you live in Raleigh or New York City, you can request public records that are held in the state of North Carolina. The state has an open policy, but if you’re trying to request documents of any kind it’s important to understand the system.

As you might expect, requesting public records can be difficult. Records are held at different agencies. Some require a request form, others are searchable online. Navigating the state’s world of public records requires some direction. 

To help, we’ve created this guide, which is specific to the state North Carolina, to help those looking specifically for criminal, inmate, court, and vital records. 

What does the North Carolina public records law say?

North Carolina’s Public Records Law can be defined as expansive, but without any real form of enforcement. Agencies cannot ask a requester why they are searching for certain records, and there is a separate office that negotiates fees based on requests to maintain minimal costs. 

There is no time limit on when requests must be completed and there is currently no formal appeal system process, so requesters must deal with good faith agencies that have the support of the law on their side. 

Under the public records law in North Carolina, individuals are entitled to public inspection of records held by all public agencies. The term ‘public agency’ is defined as any agency of North Carolina government or any of its subdivisions, including every public officer and public office, board, commission, institution, bureau, department, council, unit, or authority of the state government or a subdivision of government. 

Public information includes all public meetings and also includes: Both paper and electronic files, mail, emails, letters, maps, photographs, books, sound recordings, films, magnetic tapes, artifacts, and documentary material. Also, drafts that have been received by an agency of the government become state property and thus, are classified as property of the people.

More information can be found on the state website, NorthCarolina.gov.

How can a person access public records in North Carolina?

In some cases, accessing public records in North Carolina requires a physical form to request the document. In other cases, there are online databases that can provide 24/7 access to information; no form required.  

If a physical form is required, it can be sent by mail, email, or by phone to the corresponding department. 

Note that state agencies and employees are not required to create and/or compile a government record if one does not currently exist. 

With each department different, expect some slight variations to the rules if you’re accessing records from multiple locations. 

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 require masks and others 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. 

North Carolina criminal records

The criminal records within the state of North Carolina are classified as official documents that detail all criminal activities committed in the state. All of these documents are prepared and maintained by local and state law enforcement groups, courts, agencies, detention, and correctional facilities. 

Criminal records describe felonies and misdemeanors of alleged and convicted criminals as well as records of arrest, indictment, and conviction. 

What’s on a criminal record?

A criminal record provides a detailed record of a person’s history with law enforcement. These records are taken from various sources and include a person’s arrest records, prior convictions, and incarcerations within the state’s 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, plus a full set of fingerprints
  • A list of distinguishing features like tattoos, birthmarks, or other identifying marks
  • Type of offense (misdemeanor or felony) and description of the crime

Where can a person find North Carolina criminal records?

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety works with the state’s court system to provide criminal background checks. How expansive criminal records are in the state of North Carolina vary from county to county. 

Using the link above, you can request background checks that are fingerprint-based, also known within the state of North Carolina as the ‘Right to Review’ record. The processing fee for requests for criminal records is $14. 

North Carolina inmate records

The state of North Carolina has approximately 31,000 inmates within its corrections system. Inmate records can provide information on current inmates that are housed within any correctional facility within the state. 

What’s on an inmate record?

The information on inmate records varies from state to state; in Maine 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 (first/last name, birthdate, gender)
  • Identifying information (tatoos, birthmarks, etc.)
  • A mug shot
  • Inmate location
  • Inmate registration number
  • Jail transfer information
  • Custody status

Where can a person find North Carolina inmate records?

Information can be accessed by visiting the North Carolina Department of Public Safety page and entering in the inmate’s first/last name, gender, race, date of birth, or incarceration identification number. From there, a requester will have access to all of the inmates matching the criteria. 

The same system can provide information on parolees. The search function allows you to search for active inmates or active parolees. 

North Carolina court records

North Carolina citizens have the authority to search for, obtain, and utilize public records that are held by the state government, county government, municipality, or city. Under the Freedom of Information Law, requesters have the tools necessary to acquire records easily and more efficiently. 

What’s on a court record?

In most cases, court records are quite extensive and come with several various documents. Most people find these documents to be 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 North Carolina court records?

In order to access court records, a request can be made at a clerk’s court office in any county. To find a case, you can use the court terminals to search using the defendant name, case number, and/or victim/witness name. Copies of any paper documents can be processed for a nominal fee. 

An individual can access information about civil, estate cases, or special proceedings in the North Carolina state court system on self-service public terminals located in the clerk of court’s office in any county.  View the user’s manual for the system where the information is stored. Paper copies can be prepared by staff for a small fee. 

North Carolina vital records

In the state of North Carolina, there are offices that contain all of the birth records, marriage records, and death certificates. Records that mark milestones are known as vital records. 

What information is needed to request a vital record?

To obtain vital records in North Carolina, like a birth certificate or a death record, a person must provide certain information to aid in the search. The information includes the following: 

  • 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 North Carolina vital records?

A subsidiary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, North Carolina Vital Records houses the birth, death, and marriage certificates of the state and they can be obtained at the Register of Deeds (ROD) office in whichever county the event took place. 

Through the State Archives of North Carolina, a person has access to several holdings that include:

  • Death certificates (1939-1979)
  • Microfilmed indexes for births and deaths
  • Cohabitation records (1866-1867)
  • Microfilmed marriage registers and indexes

Currently, North Carolina’s vital records department has suspended its walk-in service temporarily, so all services must be done via online or by mail. Also, services in the department will be delayed and delivery times will fluctuate. 

Frequently asked questions about North Carolina records

To further assist North Carolina citizens in the pursuit of public records, here is a list of FAQs to help: 

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

Yes. Anyone can request and receive records that pertain to public business. 

Is there a records custodian in North Carolina?

No. The state’s public records policy doesn’t list a records custodian. Records are available with each state department.

What exemptions exist?

An agency in North Carolina may refuse to disclose requested records if one or more of the following exemptions apply:

  • Communication between attorneys and government clients made within the scope of the attorney-client relationship
  • Local and state tax information
  • Public enterprise billing information
  • Personally identifiable admissions information for North Carolina public universities
  • Trade secrets
  • Specific government lawsuit settlements
  • Criminal investigation records
  • Criminal intelligence information records
  • Information obtained via a 911 database
  • Emergency response plans
  • Photographs and/or recordings of autopsies

This is an abbreviated list as there are numerous other exceptions that can be applied under the state’s public records law. 

How long does that state have to respond?

There is no general statute in the state of North Carolina that specifies a time. 

Is there an appeals process in place?

There is no official appeals process in the state of North Carolina, so if a request is denied for any reason, you can ask for a reason for the denial. Non-exempt portions of the record can be released or the exempt portions can be redacted. 

Are estate records available?

Yes. North Carolina considers all real estate records public. 

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

Agencies in the state of North Carolina only have the power to be able to charge for copies, unless an ‘extensive amount of labor’ is involved in providing the public records. In some instances, the State Chief Information Office can mediate fees by a requester. 

  • Updated October 26, 2020
  • States

Texas

Texas Public Records Laws

Many public records can be obtained relatively easily in Texas, although certain application requirements and fees are often imposed. In some cases, additional measures may also be demanded in order to ensure public safety. Common documents, such as criminal histories, court reports or vital records, can often be requested through a simple online application. The maintenance and delivery of these records fall under multiple government agencies, but many will be overseen by either the Texas Department of Public Safety or the Texas Office of Court Administration.

Additionally, Texas’s Public Information Act, also known as Texas Government Code 522, grants citizens the right to access the records of government bodies and representatives. Although all government information is presumed to be available without questioning, there are some exceptions to the rule. For instance, any information that has been deemed confidential by law, either constitutionally, statutorily or judicially, or any document that currently has an exception pending at the time of the request, is not immediately accessible. Otherwise, all public records, including the voting history of a government employee, can be viewed or copied upon request.For further clarification regarding information availability and exemption, examine Texas Government Code 522 in its entirety.

Texas Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

Texas criminal and arrest records for individuals charged with Class B misdemeanor or greater violations are publicly available for viewing and copying. These records include disposition of cases, convictions and deferred adjudications. All documents can be searched for using the website for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Background and criminal history checks can be obtained through the Department of Public Safety.  These records can be accessed by either utilizing the online name-based search function or by submitting a completed authorized fingerprint card along with the appropriate fee to the Department of Public Safety.

As with criminal and arrest histories, the Texas Department of Public Safety is responsible for issuing official state background checks. In Texas, background checks are conducted by name-based search only through the Department of Public Safety’s Conviction Database, which is populated with the information stored in Texas’s Computerized Criminal History system.

Texas Court Records

State or county level court records can be obtained through the Texas Office of Court Administration. Overseen by the Texas Supreme Court, the Office of Court Administration is responsible for maintaining and providing information, documents and resources involving the court system of the state of Texas. More information regarding the procurement of court records can be found on the official Open Records Policy webpage. Contacting the specific county or municipal court in which the case was tried may also yield results.

Texas Vital Records

Texas Vital Records are overseen by the Texas Department of State Health Services and can be requested either online or in person. Birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates can all be ordered online using this application to order Texas Vital Records. Payment for these orders can be made with a credit card or major debit card, and they are usually processed within 10 to 15 business days. Amendments to Vital Records can be requested by following the guidelines listed on the Texas Vital Statistics website.

Verification of existing records may also be requested through the Texas Department of State Health Services, but the fees associated with locating the document are nonrefundable, even if the documents does not exist.

  • Updated April 20, 2017
  • States

California

Anyone that has ever tried to get public records in the state of California knows that it can be a challenging process. Records are maintained across several departments within the state, but all Californians have the right to access public records housed by both a local agency and state government agencies, including those held at the Department of Justice. This includes millions of criminal records, court records, inmate records, and vital records across all 58 counties in the state of California.

The state of California has a fairly specific public records law, with specified response times and exemptions to few records. The California constitution actually has few exemptions in its public records law. While many states exclude some records created by the legislature, California does not. If a records request is denied, however, there is no appeals process in place to gain access to the records. 

To assist people in acquiring the records, we have compiled this guide for the state of California that will enable people to better understand the laws within the state and provide instructions on how to access criminal, court, inmate, and vital records. 

What does the California public records law say?

The public records law in the state of California says it’s the necessary right of every person to “access to records that relate to the conduct of the people” yet exempts information that is deemed solely personal that happens to be included on a public account. 

Under California law, responses must be met within 10 days and applies to both executive and state agencies. Residency within the state is not required, however, there is no appeal option if a request is denied. 

How can a person access public records in California?

For a public records act request, a person must submit a public records request. The request is sent via mail, email, mail, or by phone to the record-holding department. Sometimes, a physical form must be submitted to the public agency. 

Every department is different, so expect some variation to the rules if you’re accessing government records from multiple places. 

In general, a public records request should include: 

  • Your name and contact information, including an email or phone number where you can be reached during office hours
  • 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

COVID-19 has created some unusual circumstances, which has resulted in some public offices limiting hours of operation. As a result, online requests or utilizing electronic formats are best, but it can not stop you from accessing records “concerning the conduct of people’s business.” 

California criminal records

In California, criminal records – also known as rap sheets – are typically used by employers that want to check the backgrounds of potential employees. In order to assist in searching for a person’s criminal records, we have provided the following information and resources below. 

What’s on a criminal record?

A person’s criminal record includes a thorough overview of their interaction with law enforcement and is pulled from several sources. These records consist of any arrests, convictions, and incarcerations throughout the state’s 35 prisons. 

Specifically, a criminal record or background check includes the following information:

  • Personal information (name, birth date, nationality)
  • Mugshot plus fingerprints
  • Comprehensive list of distinguishing physical features (tattoos, scars, moles)
  • Any misdemeanors or felonies, including a description of the crime

Where can a person find California criminal records?

Criminal records in California are administered by the Office of the Attorney General. The OAG provides background checks that can be accessed through law enforcement offices and through the official California State Records Online Database. 

Manual fingerprints are required as part of the government code to initiate a background search as criminal records are not provided without a person’s knowledge, although an individual can give consent to initiate one. 

Criminal inmate records

The state of California has approximately 115,000 inmates within its corrections system. Inmate records provide information on inmates that are currently incarcerated. 

What’s on an inmate record?

The information listed on an inmate can vary, but in California records typically contain a combination of personal information along with specific details about a person’s incarceration situation. The following information can be acquired when public access is provided to inmate records:

  • Name, birth date, gender
  • Mugshot
  • Inmate location
  • Inmate registration number
  • Custody status
  • Jail transfer information

Where can a person find California inmate records?

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation provides information and links that allow you to locate offenders and provide information for victims and advocates.  

Use the site www.ca.gov with an inmate’s first and last name or offender ID to do a search. If you cannot locate the inmate through these means, contact the Department’s Identification Unit at 916-445-6713. 

California court records

Court records are able to provide extensive information from court hearings and for those that are seeking access, there are resources listed below. Note that it is often a difficult process to procure court records as they can be held across different courts. 

What’s on a court record?

The information on a court record can vary, but in California, most people are looking for these specific documents within a court record:

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

Where can a person find California court records?

In California, court records for background checks are served via the California Judicial Branch, although the state imposes restrictions on employers that request them. These restrictions can are found in the following:

  1. California’s ‘ban the box’ law
  2. The Los Angeles and San Francisco ‘Fair Chance Ordinances’ (FCO
  3. Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
  4. California Information Privacy Act (CIPA)
  5. Anti-discrimination laws

Court records can also be obtained in the following ways:

  • Go to the courthouse and request to look at physical records
  • Go to the courthouse and request access to electronic court records
  • Access electronic records via the internet

If you plan to go to the courthouse to request records, having an understanding of how the state court system works is helpful. In California, the supreme court is the highest authority. The California Supreme Court oversees decisions made by the court of appeal, which oversees decisions made by superior courts. Most court cases are heard by a superior court or trial court.

California vital records

California, like most states, has an office that maintains its vital records. Vital records are maintained for milestone moments and include birth records, marriage records, and death certificates. 

What information is needed to request a vital record?

To request a vital record, you must provide some information upfront to facilitate the search. You’ll need to provide the following: 

  • Full names before the first marriage of both spouses
  • Date of marriage
  • California county where the marriage license was issued
  • Your name
  • Your signature
  • Address where the certificate is to be mailed
  • Your daytime phone number

Where can a person find California vital records?

The California Department of Public Health – Vital Records (CDPH-VR) keeps birth, death, deaths, marriage, and divorce records on file for the state of California. The department also issues certified copies of California vital records as well as registers and amends vital records as authorized by law. 

Because California receives a large volume of requests on the state level, it is quicker to request vital records directly from the county office, with many accepting requests by phone, fax, online, and with credit card payment. 

Frequently asked questions about California records

In your quest to access public records in California, you may have additional questions. To further assist California citizens in their pursuit for public records, here’s a list of commonly asked questions: 

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

The law states that only California residents can request public records. However, other agencies and the United States citizens residing in other states have made requests and received the requested records.

Is there a records custodian in California? 

No. The public records law in the state specifically tells people to contact individual agencies to gain access to records. 

What exemptions exist?

While some states have a specific list of records that can’t be accessed or are exempt from public viewing, California doesn’t. The state does grant exemptions to “any records that are not in the best public interest to be released.” 

In these particular cases, public information that pertains to safety protocols, building layouts, medical records, and records of that nature fall into this exemption category.

How long does that state have to respond?

California has 10 days to respond to a request. California does specify a specific response time. Other states do not. 

Is there an appeal process in place?

The California Public Records Act (CPRA) does not establish any type of administrative appeal. However, the law does leave room for individual agencies to create their own appeals process, though we did not find any.

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

Once a request for records has been made, the staff creates copies for a fee of 10 cents per page for standard documents. Additional fees can be incurred for postage charges, and the retrieval/return of records held off-site in archives. These direct costs may be waived if deemed appropriate in some instances. 

  • Updated October 13, 2020
  • States

Minnesota

A Midwestern state, Minnesota was created from the eastern section of the Minnesota Territory and is bordered by Lake Superior and Canada to the north.  Minnesota is the 12th largest state in the U.S., and nearly 60 percent of its 5.4 million residents live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, also known as the Twin Cities.  With a diverse landscape and an even more diverse population, Minnesota has a lot to offer its residents and has long made provisions for the sharing of its records with the public.

Minnesota Public Records Laws

The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA) was originally passed in 1974 and amendments were made in 1993.  The Act is found in Chapter 13 of the Minnesota Statutes, and the law imposes some of the highest sanctions of any other state against those who knowingly violate its provisions, with damages allowed up to $15,000 per incident.

Under the Act, “any person” may request public records in Minnesota and this includes individuals, corporations, and their legal representatives.  The reason for the application does not need to be stated, except in matters of potential invasion of privacy, and the use of the records once obtained is unrestricted.

Records that are covered by the Act include those from all state agencies, including the executive branch.  The legislative and judicial branches are not included although some legislative records are available, and the Rules of Public Access apply to the disclosure of court records.  Records that cannot be obtained, or are exempt, include:

  • Educational records
  • Medical records
  • Investigatory records
  • Security-related data
  • Sealed ballots
  • Library records
  • Welfare data
  • Foster care information
  • Domestic abuse data

Minnesota Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

Background checks in Minnesota are administered by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).  The department has an open-access website where any member of the public can do a public records search on anyone else for free, and the results will return a 15-year criminal history for the state of Minnesota.  However, if the report is to be used for employment, housing, or credit purposes, the applicant must be informed in writing of this.  A more complete check, including a search of FBI records, can be done when a signed consent is received.


Minnesota Jail and Inmate Records

To find information on the correctional facilities in the state of Minnesota, services for victims, and to search for an offender, you can visit the state Department of Corrections website.  To locate an offender in the system, you’ll want to search on the Offender Locator page with either a MnDOC Offender ID or a Name and Date of Birth.  You’ll be given the offender’s current location, sentence date, offense information, and estimated earliest release date.

Minnesota Court Records

To locate any information on the courts or court cases in the state of Minnesota, you can search the administrator of the courts website.  The Minnesota Public Access (MPA) website allows the public to search for such things as trial, civil, family, and criminal case records, wills deposited with the court, and appellate court cases.  Full case files may need to be requested from the courthouse where the case was heard.

Minnesota Vital Records

Vital records in Minnesota in the form of birth and death certificates are administered by the Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Vital Records.  Birth certificates are available from 1900 to present and death certificates from 1908 to present.   You must show “tangible interest” to receive any of these documents in Minnesota.  This means proving that you are either listed on the certificate or are a relative, legal guardian, legal representative, or business with an interest.  To request either of these in Minnesota, you can do the following:

  • In Person: You can only apply for a birth or death certificate in person at a local county office if they offer this service.   The main Office of Vital Records does not provide walk-in service.
  • By Mail:   You can mail a complete application with payment and the required documentation to: Minnesota Department of Health, Central Cashiering – Vital Records, P.O. Box 64499, St. Paul, MN 55164
  • Email:  Fax your completed application with the required documentation to 951-201-5740.

Marriage certificates and divorce decrees are only available from the county in which the event took place.  Procedures to request these and dates available will vary depending on the location.

If you’re looking to perform employment background checks in Minnesota, or to screen potential hires, there are certain restrictions you may need to file. Read on for more info.

There are certain states, such as California, New York and Wisconsin, which are considered to be pro-jobseeker states when it comes to background check laws. Minnesota is also a state that falls into this job-seeker friendly category. These states don’t have laws that completely prohibit the use of background checks and the information obtained to determine whether someone is hireable or not; however, it does place certain limitations on the background check process and the extent that the information can be used to determine whether a person is hireable.

The Important Role of Background Checks

Immediate access to the pertinent background information of applicants has totally revolutionized the human resources industry. The capacity to almost immediately gain access to a broad range of personal and even private data, provides these companies with a wealth of data through which they can develop a rather lucid portrait of potential employees. However, the challenge is determining how much access is too much, as well as determining just what a company can use or not use in their decision making process.

This is why states go to great lengths to protect job seekers from companies that will abuse the background check process without handcuffing the businesses completely. There are some states with very loose laws that provide a great deal of latitude for companies to use background checks in their hiring process, while other states place more emphasis on protecting the rights and privacy of the job seeker. Minnesota falls under the latter category.

The Diverse Nature of a Background Check

Obviously, one of the most common areas of concern when it comes to background checks is criminal history. For the purpose of protecting employees, clients and company property and assets, companies place a significant amount of gravity on criminal history. Although having a criminal history does not automatically bar a person from employment, it can create challenges, depending on the type of crime that was committed, as well as how long ago the crime was committed.

Under Minnesota law, any company that is functioning as a business screening service may only disseminate criminal history that is reflective of a person’s accurate and complete record. Ultimately, this means that any data that is provided to a company as a part of a criminal background check must have been updated no later than 30 days prior to the information being passed on to the company requesting the background check. The law also requires that this data be verified with the primary data source within the last 90 days. Companies providing business screening services or employment criminal background checks must allow any person that this is the subject of a background check to dispute the criminal history that is revealed on any report that is being distributed to a business requesting information on the subject.

Dealing with Juvenile Records

When it comes to conducting a background check on juveniles, the law only allows access to a juvenile’s prior criminal history as a prerequisite for specific types of employment in specific occupations or for specified noncriminal justice system purposes. Occupations in which public safety is an issue or jobs that involve other minors are a couple of the categories that apply here.

Ban the Box Protections

Ban the box protection laws were first enacted in Minnesota is 1974, and they were most recently amended in 2013. These laws provide specific limitation on the ability of companies to access and use a person’s criminal history as a basis for denying employment. These restrictions apply to public and private employers and licensing agencies. One law prohibits the consideration of a person’s criminal history until that person has been selected for an interview. This law is designed to ensure that criminal history cannot be used solely as a disqualifying criteria for potential employees. For a person to be selected for an interview suggests that they have, at least, met the minimum requirements for the job.

When it comes to licensing decisions and public employment, no government agency can consider any criminal record that is not followed by a conviction, expunged convictions or misdemeanor convictions in which no jail sentence can be imposed.

Additionally, when it comes to public employment, a person cannot be denied employment based on criminal history unless the offense in question is directly associated with the position that the person is applying for. To ensure that this particular statute is followed, there are specific provisions and criteria that must be met by the employer to prove direct association.

When it comes to licensing, any person that is covered by these statutes that is rejected must be provided a notice of the reasons why they were rejected. The licensing agency must also include information on the statutory complaint and grievance process and the earliest day that the applicant can reapply. Where applicable, the agency must also make the applicant aware of the fact that any evidence of rehabilitation will be considered for future applications.

Occupations and Activities Serving Children

When it comes to occupations that focus on serving children, the state of Minnesota requires a mandatory background check. For instance, any person offered employment in a position by a school that is serving children from Kindergarten through 12th grade must clear a criminal background check, including athletic and extracurricular activity coaches and teachers.

In this case, there is no limit on the look-back period, meaning that the background check can go back as far as necessary. This normally includes instate and out-of-state sources.

There are some exceptions to the mandatory statute. For instance, the hiring authority does not have to request a background check for someone who has received their license within the last 12 months. The hiring authority also has the option to use a background check that has been conducted by another school or hiring authority if the background check was conducted in the last 12 months.

This statute also allows for the termination of those who were hired pending the results of their background check. The statute also requires that the applicant provide a money order or check payable to BCA or the hiring authority for the purpose of covering the cost of the background check.

Although this statute mandates a background check, it does not prohibit the hiring authority from hiring someone with a criminal history, and the hiring authority will not be held liable for terminating or failing to hire an individual based on the results of the background check.

For those who are applying to work on a volunteer basis at institutions that serve children from kindergarten to 12th grade, background checks are optional and left to the discretion of the hiring authority.

Outside of the statutes that impact individuals who are applying for positions involving children, the background check laws in Minnesota overwhelmingly favor the job-seeker. The idea is to protect the privacy of individuals as well as protect against the proclivity of companies to refuse employment to individuals with criminal histories.

  • Updated April 19, 2017
  • States
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