All fifty states have open public records and Colorado is no exception.
Public records are a key source to keep our government running efficiently and transparently. Some records you seek will be found at the state government level where others will require you to contact a county government department.
We have found all the information you need in order to request Colorado criminal records, inmate records, court records, and vital records.
Table of Contents
- 1 What does the Colorado public records law say?
- 2 How can a person access public records in Colorado?
- 3 Colorado criminal records
- 4 Colorado inmate records
- 5 Colorado court records
- 6 Colorado vital records
- 7 Frequently asked questions about Colorado records
What does the Colorado public records law say?
Anyone in the United States can request a public record from the three branches of government in Colorado, under The Colorado Open Records Act or “CORA.”
Most records or writings can be requested unless it is a juvenile record, mental health case, or is protected under a statue of the state. The records are open to inspection in a variety of ways. They can be mailed, faxed, and some can be accessed online.
Physical and electronic records are available to request including maps, photos, digital data, emails, documents, books, and recordings.
You do not have the right to ask for the papers to be mailed to you in a specific format, for example on a thumb drive. The government agency will determine what format will be sent or be open for your inspection.
Another note of importance is that government employees are prohibited by law from explaining or offering their opinion on the records you request.
How can a person access public records in Colorado?
To conduct public records search in the state of Colorado, a person must submit a public records request. The request is sent via 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 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.
Colorado criminal records
Most of the time, employers want to look at criminal records to background check a new employee.
Most criminal records are public in Colorado. However, some records have specific information that can be withheld. Examples of information that is redacted are Social Security numbers, names of minor children, email accounts, and financial institution account numbers.
What’s on a criminal record?
Colorado criminal records contain the criminal’s name and aliases, the charges filed against the subject, and a detailed physical description including tattoos. Other information on the record, besides a person’s criminal history, could include:
- Date of birth
- Current and past addresses
- Former arrest records
- Current and past warrants
Where can a person find Colorado criminal records?
- Resource: Colorado Bureau of Investigation
The state gives people access to criminal records through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. You can log onto the website and conduct a search for $5 per search. All states charge a fee to access this kind of record.
The record only includes crimes that a person was fingerprinted for, so small violations like a traffic ticket won’t be on the record.
Colorado inmate records
Colorado’s Department of Corrections maintains and stores all of the records on its inmates. Colorado houses approximately 18,419 inmates at twenty-two state and two private prisons.
What’s on an inmate record?
As you look into an inmate’s record, expect to find various information depending on the county or region. There will be specific details about the inmate’s incarceration circumstances and possibly a previous incarceration. The records you receive will provide the following information:
- Inmate’s name and status
- Court name
- Incarceration date
- Sentence Type
- Convicted offense including the degree of offense
- Expected release date
- Housing facility
Where can a person find Colorado inmate records?
The Colorado Department of Corrections website has details on how to find an inmate and up-to-date information on policies. The policies can cover regulations for visitations or how to send money.
You need to know the first and last name of the inmate or the inmate’s six-character ID number to conduct an online search for an inmate.
Colorado court records
Access has been granted to Colorado Public Records since 1969, which includes court documents. Court records fall into two categories: Civil and criminal court records.
Civil court examples are liability suits, nonpayment for goods, landlord vs. tenant issues, car accidents, and divorce proceedings. Bankruptcy is a civil court record.
Criminal case examples are robbery, dealing drugs, kidnapping, burglary, gambling, and include violent crimes like murder and rape.
What’s on a court record?
You can request several types of court records from a court case. Court records are extensive, especially if the case took a long time to conclude. You will find the following documents the most helpful:
- Court minutes examples can include estate settlements, licenses for businesses, tax and public building information, and land matters.
- Case files can contain copies of evidence, writs, testimony, and subpoenas
- Court dockets
- Orders of the court or the decision as decided by the judge
- Judgment documentation and when the case is closed
- Jury records and files
- Witness documentation
- Appointment of guardians
Where can a person find Colorado court records?
- Resource: Colorado State Archives
The Colorado State Archives has an online searchable database for some court records. To access the records, you need to know a name, year, case type, case number, or the county the case was heard in. If you’re ready to make a formal request, you can submit this form to the state.
If the state archives doesn’t have what you’re looking for, you can also request records from the state’s trial courts, county courts, district courts, appeals court, and the Colorado State Supreme Court. Start your hunt for districts by visiting the Colorado Judicial Branch website,
Colorado vital records
Vital records mark life’s milestones, like birth, marriage, death, and divorce.
If you are the type of person that stashes important documents away and then can’t find them again, you can get another copy at the Colorado State Vital Records Office of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
You can obtain marriage certificates, death certificates, divorce certificates, and birth certificates from this office. Some records you can obtain online and others will be mailed or faxed.
What information is needed to request a vital record?
To request a copy of a vital record, you can complete your request in person, online, by mail, fax, or phone.
You need to provide the following information:
- Current photo ID
- Full name of the person or persons listed on the application
- Date and place of the event
- Your relationship to the individual(s)
Where can a person find Colorado vital records?
- Resource: Colorado State Vital Records Office
Events that happened between the following dates are filed with the Colorado State Vital Records Office.
- Birth certificates from 1910 to present
- Death records from 1900 to present
- Marriage certificates from 1900 to present
- Divorce records from 1851 to present
Charges vary from $17.00 to $17.75 for the first copy and can increase in cost to $50 for an heirloom birth or marriage certificate. The more expensive heirloom birth or marriage certificates have special designs, are often engraved with an embossed seal and are printed on quality paper. There may be additional convenience fees especially for transmitting pages and postage.
Frequently asked questions about Colorado records
To help you expedite your records, we have compiled a list of FAQs.
Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?
Anyone can request a public record, according to the Colorado Open Records Act. Whether you live in Denver or New York City, you can request a record. There is no state residency requirement.
Is there a records custodian in Colorado?
No. There is not one specific custodian of records in Colorado. The custodian is the director or head of the agency who has personal control and custody of the records. This can be a government agency or department in Colorado.
What exemptions exist?
Records that would not be released to you are ones that are contrary to state or federal statutes. A ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court or by the order of any court could cause an exemption.
How long does that state have to respond?
The Colorado Secretary of State’s website says the Secretary of State’s office will make every effort to respond within three working days of a request. There may be a seven-day extension added to certain records. If clarification is needed to complete your request, it will take longer for you to receive them. The records will be made available for 30 days in a public office if you are viewing them in person and after that, the record will be closed again.
Is there an appeals process in place?
No. Colorado does not have a process for an appeal. Once you are denied or do not receive the information you are seeking, litigation would be the only means to obtain this information.
What fees are associated with requesting public records?
Fees do apply to your request. The fees can vary and depend upon the time needed to locate and copy the records. If it requires more than one hour for a staffer to find the files, redact personal information and copy them, an hourly fee of $30.00 can be charged. If you have a lot of pages to copy, the fees add up quickly. The agency requires an advance deposit before they begin the request. Once the request is completed, it must be paid for in full before the agency will conduct a records search for you.