There are many records you can legally access as an American citizen. Records can be kept by a vast number of government agencies, and you could feel like you are running in circles to find the right agency for the record you are trying to obtain.
While having everything online makes it easier to access records, there could be some agencies that don’t offer this an option. Generally, any public record can be obtained using a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) letter of request submitted to the agency with the record.
Records can be difficult to track, so this article provides some helpful information on how to find criminal records, inmate records, court records, and vital records in the state of Georgia.
Table of Contents
- 1 What does the Georgia public records law say?
- 2 How can a person access public records in Georgia?
- 3 Georgia criminal records
- 4 Georgia inmate records
- 5 Georgia court records
- 6 Georgia vital records
- 7 Frequently asked questions about Georgia records
What does the Georgia public records law say?
Open records under Uniform Court Rule 21 applies to all three branches of Georgia’s government including executive, legislative and judicial. However, there are specific exemptions where you can’t ask for public records that include:
- National historic places
- Wildlife refuges
- Security plans or measures that fall under homeland security
- Sports records of those under the age of 12
- Certain real estate documents where a government agency is trying to buy or construct on land
In Georgia, officials and agencies have three business days to respond to your FOIA request. The state no longer is allowed to charge search and retrieval costs because of the 1991 court case Trammell v. Martin. The copying cost can run $.25 per page, but that is the limit. There could be an exception if there is an unusual time, effort, and cost in searching and retrieval, but the state must let you know in advance of any unusual circumstances or cost.
If a request is denied, a requester has a few options. You can file a complaint with the attorney general or you can file a civil or criminal case in court to fight the decision.
To learn more, visit the official website of the state, Georgia.gov.
How can a person access public records in Georgia?
Some records are online while others must be requested using an open records request form. If a formal request is needed, it can be sent via 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
- 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.
Georgia criminal records
People may want to see someone’s criminal record for several different types of reasons. The most common reason is employment as most employers require potential employees to agree to a background check before hiring. Other reasons could be to check someone out before dating them or because a family member is dating them. It could also be helpful if you are planning to bring someone on as a business partner.
What’s on a criminal record?
A criminal record is a list of someone’s arrests, convictions and sentences as reported by law enforcement and the courts. This can include arrests and charges against them, convictions and which prison or jail they served time in for a conviction. A criminal record pulls from many types of sources to put the information in one place.
Pulling a criminal record will also reveal:
- Legal name
- Residence and nationality
- Arrests and convictions
- Mug shot
Where can a person find Georgia criminal records?
- Resource: Georgia Crime Information Center
Those seeking criminal records on any individual in Georgia must make an appointment to go to the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) lobby office and speak to someone. This is where record inspections and fingerprint services are offered under the command of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI)
Georgia law states that anyone can obtain a criminal history record as long as they provide signed consent of the person being researched. It must be submitted to an official from the GCIC and must include the person’s full name, address, social security number and birthdate.
Georgia inmate records
The last published statistics, which are from 2016, show there are 53,064 people in Georgia’s prison system, which puts it relatively high in nationwide ranking for the number of inmates houses. It’s national rate is 512 per 100,000 people who face sentences of more than a year in 2016.
People may want to see an inmate’s record for several reasons including employment or if they are a crime victim.
What’s on an inmate record?
States are different in exactly what is on an inmate record, but Georgia is typical as there is certain personal information all states include in this type of public record. That information is:
- A mug shot
- The inmate’s name, birthdate and gender
- An inmate registration number
- The location of where they are incarcerated
- Their custody status
- Jail transfer information
Where can a person find Georgia inmate records?
- Resource: Department of Corrections Offender Query
There is a state website that makes it convenient to search for inmate records in Georgia.
If you request the record, it’s your responsibility to verify the information by writing a request to the Inmate Records and Information office located at P.O. Box 1529, Forsyth, Georgia 30129.
Georgia court records
State court records can include a lot of information regarding any connection a person has with the courts or a case. Records can include probate issues such as death and divorce records, bankruptcy, civil court matters and criminal court records. Each of these types of records are held in different places, so you will need to know where to look but many are a part of public record.
What’s on a court record?
There can be stacks of court records regarding a person or a case and there are many different types of documents to sort through. Some of the most common records sought out are documents of judgements, court orders and jury records and files. Other records can include:
- Case files
- Court minutes
- Witness documentation
Where can a person find Georgia court records?
- Resource: Georgia Courts and Records
This Georgia website consolidates each county’s civil and criminal cases into one place. You click under the county where the case is and can file and research the case. You must register for an account at the provider’s link though but registration is free.
State and local court records are stored at the courthouses in each Georgia County, under the specific court that heard the case. Most are available through the county clerk’s office, which tends to handle all records. You can call the court clerk in the county where the record may be to arrange for a time and method of obtaining court records.
Georgia vital records
All states, including Georgia, have a division dedicated to vital records. These are personal records that include birth documents, marriage certificates and death certificates. It can also include adoption records.
People seek out vital records usually when they need them for a personal issue. They may need a birth certificate to get married or obtain a passport or may be doing genealogy research on their family. Vital records are relatively simple to get.
What information is needed to request a vital record?
Every person requesting a vital record in Georgia must have some information to narrow their search and request the correct record. Information needs to include:
- The date or date range of the life event
- The event’s location as in city or county
- The full name of the person being searched, including maiden names
- A license number for a marriage record
- A case file number for divorce documentation
Where can a person find Georgia vital records?
Georgia has an office called the Department of Public Health State Office of Vital Records where these types of records can be found. Not all marriage records are held there as Georgia onl has marriage records from 1952 to 1996. Local probate courts have other marriage records, especially newer marriage certificates. Death records are available through the state office.
The department can confirm divorces, but a person seeking paper records of a divorce decree must go to the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county where the divorce occurred to request a copy.
Frequently asked questions about Georgia records
Those who need more information may find these FAQs helpful.
Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?
Yes, any United State citizen, whether they live in Atlanta or Denver, can request records. However, but this wasn’t always the case. The citizenship requirement was removed from the Georgia Open Records Act in 2012.
Is there a records custodian in Georgia?
No, there isn’t a general records custodian or ombudsman in Georgia.
What exemptions exist?
There are several exemptions to public records’ access in Georgia including documentation on national historic places, wildlife refuges, security plans or measures that fall under homeland security, sports records of those under the age of 12 and some real estate documents where a government agency is trying to buy or build.
How long does that state have to respond?
In Georgia, a government agency has three days to respond to your FOIA request. However, due to the Coronavirus, agencies are informing those seeking information that it could take longer to process your request and provide you with an answer.
Is there an appeals process in place?
Someone denied an open records request can file a complaint with the Georgia Attorney General’s office or file a civil or criminal action in the court overseeing the records. In some cases, that could be the Georgia Supreme Court, a federal court, or a local superior court for criminal and some civil matters, as well as a local magistrate court or probate court.
What fees are associated with requesting public records?
Changes in Georgia’s laws prevent agencies from charging hefty search and retrieval costs. The most that can be charged is $.25 per page copy. There are some rare cases where a search and retrieval cost is required should the document be hard to find. The agency with the record is required to notify you of an anticipated cost when they send a response to a FOIA inquiry.