Florida Public Records
Just about every country and culture has a method of record-keeping. For various reasons, like collecting taxes or tracking crime rates, records have proven a valuable resource for federal, state, and local governments to keep.
As citizens, you can access many of these records. The Freedom of Information Act, which passed back in the 60s has made it easier for people to access records, although it’s still a bit of a challenge. Records are kept by different departments, some are online and some are still in hard copy, and some public officials aren’t quick to deliver public files.
In Florida, as with other states, different records are held by many different departments. Accessing public records in the state of Florida will depend on the kind of information you’re looking for.
To help, here’s some direction on locating and reviewing official records in The Sunshine State.
Table of Contents
- 1 What does the Florida public records law say?
- 2 How can a person access public records in Florida?
- 3 Florida criminal records
- 4 Florida inmate records
- 5 Florida court records
- 6 Florida vital records
- 7 Where to find additional public records for Florida
- 8 Frequently asked questions about Florida records
What does the Florida public records law say?
The Florida Constitution contains open government laws, which include the Public Records Law. This law states that any records made or received by any public agency in the course of its official business are available for inspection unless specifically exempted by the Florida Legislature.
The law, called the Sunshine Law, can be found in Chapter 286 of the Florida statutes.
This law includes access to traditional written documents such as papers, maps, books, tapes, photographs, film, sound recordings, and records stored in computers, according to Florida law.
The attorney general prints a manual that explains the state’s open government laws and includes any updates made.
How can a person access public records in Florida?
For public records access in Florida, a person must submit a public records request. The request is sent via mail, email, mail, or by phone to the Public Records Coordinator, which in this case is in Tallahassee. In some states, this person is called a Custodian of Public Records, but the title varies by state.
The request should include:
- Your name and contact information, including an email, phone number, and mailing address
- The name of the document you want access to with as much detail as possible
- A specific time period that you’d like to receive the materials by
- How to deliver the documents, whether by email or mail
In some cases, it’s best to make requests by email, especially since offices may have different hours to due COVID-19.
There is a copy fee of $0.20 per double-sided copy, but fees are waived if the cost is under $7.
Florida criminal records
Florida criminal records provide a list of criminal activity for a specific person. The records contain any misdemeanor and felony offenses and include arrest data, indictment history, and conviction information.
What’s on a criminal record?
Criminal records contain pertinent information about a person’s criminal history. The following information can be found on Florida criminal records:
- Personal information like a person’s name, birthday, nationality, etc.
- A mugshot and a full set of fingerprints
- A list of distinguishing features like tattoos and other physical attributes
- The type of offense (misdemeanor or felony) and description of the crime
Where can a person find Florida criminal records?
- Resource: Florida Criminal History Record Check
To look at criminal records, visit the Florida Criminal History Record Check website, which is maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Public access to this information costs $25 per record check. The most helpful tool is the Instant Search, where files are retrieved after entering a person’s name.
Florida inmate records
Inmate records provide a look at a person’s criminal history and incarceration information. These records do provide some of the same information as a criminal record, but also provide specifics about incarceration time.
Some records are public and some must be requested by a person or a court.
What’s on an inmate record?
The information listed on an inmate record varies, but in Florida the records usually contain:
- Personal information like a person’s name, birth date, and gender
- A mug shot
- Inmate location
- Inmate registration number
- Jail transfer information
- Custody status
Where can a person find Florida inmate records?
- Resource: Inmate search
The Florida Department of State keeps all criminal justice records, which includes inmate records and arrest records. The state has put together a list of jails and gives you the ability to search inmate records, and in some counties, arrest records can be searched for and viewed too.
Florida court records
Florida court records give people a chance to review court documents and proceedings. They’re created for both criminal and civil trials in local, county, state, and federal courts.
While court records are available to the public through the Sunshine Act, the records can be sealed or expunged, which means you wouldn’t be able to access the record. Usually, this happens if the information puts someone at risk, like victims of a crime or juveniles.
These records aren’t all kept by one particular court or in one repository. Instead, people can gain access to records by checking in with the county, circuit, Court of Appeals, or Supreme Court, depending on where the case was argued.
What’s on a court record?
The information on a court record can vary, but in Florida the most useful documents found inside a public court record include:
- Court minutes
- Case files
- Orders of the court
- Judgment documentation
- Jury records and files
- Witness documentation
Where to find Florida court records
- Resource: Florida Courts
For people interested in inspecting court records in Florida, the state suggests visiting the courthouse where the case is taking place and requesting the documents in person from the clerk of court, county clerk, or the clerk’s office.
Some county records can be found online. In some cases, counties maintain an online records portal. Miami-Dade County, for example, has its own site with the ability to search government records using names and keywords. It’s a good idea to search for a similar site in the county you’re looking for.
Florida vital records
Vital records government issued records that document life events like birth, marriage, or divorce. Not all vital records are public. Usually, records are only released to people listed on the record, a family member of those listed on the document, or a government official.
What information is needed to request a vital record?
To obtain a Florida vital record, a person must provide certain information to aid in the search. The information needed includes:
- The location of the event
- The approximate date of the event
- The full name of the person, including maiden names
- A case file number for divorce records
- The license number for a marriage record
Where can a person find Florida vital records?
- Resource: Florida Department of Health
To access records that record life events like birth, marriage, and death, you need to review vital records. In Florida, the State Department of Health maintains these records. This department can provide access to the following information:
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates and death records
- Marriage certificates and marriage records
- Divorce records
The state uses a system known as VitalChek to provide this information. Requests can be made right on the website. There is a fee for each request. Fees vary by the record.
Where to find additional public records for Florida
- Resource: Florida Information Locator
Florida state has indexed dozens of pieces of public information on its Florida Information Locator. People can access everything from lists of abandoned properties to zip code directories.
Frequently asked questions about Florida records
To make sure you’re able to access the records you want, here are answers to frequently asked questions:
Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?
Yes. Both residents and non-residents can request public documents in the state of Florida.
Is there a records custodian in Florida?
In Florida, any person who has custody of a public record must share it. The title, records custodian, isn’t used, but access should still be granted.
What exemptions exist?
The Florida Constitution doesn’t list any exemptions and assumes that all records are public.
How long does that state have to respond?
Some states spell out a window of time that the state must respond to a request for information. However, Florida is not one of those states. The state constitution says all requests must be handled “promptly” and every effort should be made to see if a record exists and if so, it should be delivered to the person requesting it in a timely manner.
What kind of enforcement is in place?
Florida doesn’t have much of any enforcement in place when it comes to appeals or denials for information.
If, for example, you’re denied access to public records, there is no appeal process. Several states spell out an appeal process, but Florida doesn’t.
The state offers a mediation program through the attorney general’s office to resolve potential disputes.
What fees are associated with requesting Florida public records?
In Florida, the cost to duplicate documents is $0.15 per one-sided page and $0.20 for double-sided pages, and $1 per certified copy. Florida law also provides clearance for additional fees if a request comes in that ties up extensive resources.