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Delaware Public Records

If you’ve ever tried to run a public records search for any records, you’ve probably noticed that the process isn’t exactly streamlined. Records are kept by different departments, some aren’t approved for the public, and some are just plain hard to find.

However, the Delaware Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) does give state residents the right to access records.

To help people understand what records they do have access to as a United States citizen and how to find specific records, we’ve created this state-specific guide. We’ll help people understand the state law and provide direction to access criminal, inmate, court, and vital records. 

What does the Delaware public records law say?

The public records law in the state of Delaware gives residents access to public documents. The requests are to be met within 15 days. However, if a request is denied, there is no appeals process. In other words, if a request for records is turned down, the law doesn’t offer any way to fight the decision. 

There are certain exemptions specified in the law. As with other states, records pertaining to public safety and security are exempt from public viewing. Any records created by the General Assembly, or the legislature of the state, can’t be accessed publicly either. 

How can a person access public records in Delaware?

For public records access in Delaware, a person must submit a public records request. The request can be sent via mail, email, mail, or by phone to the record-holding department. 

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

In general, a public records request should include: 

  • Your name and contact information, including an email, phone number, and mailing address.
  • The name of the document you want access to with as much detail as possible.
  • A specific time period that you’d like to receive the materials by. In Delaware, requests are answered within 15 days, as specified by the state public records law. 
  • 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. Some states are now encouraging people to use online portals to minimize in-person interactions. The availability of online options depends on what kind of record is being requested. 

Delaware criminal records

In Delaware, criminal records are most commonly accessed by employers who want to run a background check on a potential employee. To help employees find 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 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 Delaware criminal records?

Background checks in Delaware are administered by the Delaware State Police, State Bureau of Identification (SBI). The SBI provides certified criminal history reports to requestors through fingerprint cards only, not name searches.  

This measure provides privacy protection for everyone. Since fingerprints are required to initiate a background search, a person can give consent for one to be conducted. There aren’t any criminal records provided without a person’s prior knowledge. 

Delaware inmate records

The state of Delaware has about 3,500 inmates within its corrections system. Inmate records can provide information on current inmates that are behind bars. 

What’s on an inmate record?

The information listed on an inmate record varies, but in Delaware, 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, birth date, and gender
  • A mug shot
  • Inmate location
  • Inmate registration number
  • Jail transfer information
  • Custody status

Where can a person find Delaware inmate records?

The Delaware State Department of Corrections website has information and links to help you locate offenders and a great deal of information for victims and advocates. 

If you are looking for inmate records, you can use their partner site, Vinelink.com, that will allow you to determine where someone is being housed, their projected release date, and other pertinent information about their charges.  

You will need to know the person’s Offender ID or their first name and last name to do a search.

Delaware court records

Court records can provide a wealth of information from court proceedings. For those looking to access court records, there are resources listed below. It’s important to remember that court records can be some of the most difficult records to access since they’re often held in different courts. 

What’s on a court record?

In most cases, court records are quite large and come with many different documents. Most people find the following documents the most helpful: 

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

Where can a person find Delaware court records?

The Delaware court system is fairly compact as there are only three counties in the state. However, the types of records that you wish to gain access to will determine where you’ll need to go. The administrator of the courts is the place to start. If the case is a civil case, you can access docket information and some records online through their CourtConnect website. For any other case, you can request transcripts from the particular court. The Delaware Courts can also provide some direction.

To request documents from the right court, you’ll need a basic understanding of how the court system works in the state. The Supreme Court is the highest authority and resides over the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals has authority over lower courts, which includes three superior courts or trial courts within the three counties (Delaware County, New Castle County, and Sussex County) in Delaware.

There are other tiers of court in the state that are worth noting. These tiers include the Justice of the Peace Court, the Court of Common Pleas, Family Court, Court of Chancery, and the Administrative Office of the Courts.

For those having trouble finding the records they’re looking for, you can send a request for records to The Renaissance Centre, which is located in Wilmington.  

Delaware vital records

Delaware, like most states, has an office that maintains its vital records. Vital records are kept for milestone moments. The state maintains birth records, marriage records, and death records. 

What information is needed to request a vital record?

To obtain a vital record in Delaware, 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 Delaware vital records?

Vital records in Delaware, such as birth, death, and marriage certificates are held by the state Office of Vital Statistics. Divorce records are not. Divorce records are always handled by the county in which the final dissolution of marriage took place.

Due to COVID, the state of Delaware is asking that people request copies of vital records online or by mail. Walk-in requests currently aren’t being accepted. 

The Office of Vital Statistics encourages people to use the online portal, Go Certificates to get certified copies of records. This site can help those looking for birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage certificates. 

Frequently asked questions about Delaware records

To further assist Delaware 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 says that only Delaware residents can submit public records requests. However, other agencies and citizens of other states have requested records and have received them. 

Is there a records custodian in Delaware?

No. The state doesn’t have one designated person that handles public records.

What exemptions exist?

The Delaware FOIA spells out 16 specific exemptions. The exemptions focus on privacy for students, medical patients, law enforcement investigations, weapons permit carriers, and all records pertaining to labor negotiations. 

Records created by the General Assembly are also exempt from the law. 

How long does that state have to respond?

The state has 15 days to respond to a request. Some states don’t specify a timeline, but Delaware does. 

Is there an appeal process?

No. The state doesn’t have an outlined appeals process in place for denied requests. A person can petition the Attorney General if they believe their request was denied incorrectly. The Attorney General will make a decision one way or another.

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

While some states specify how much is charged per record or the cost to copy records, the Delaware state law just says that fees can be changed to cover the expenses of copying records.

  • Updated October 13, 2020
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