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New Jersey Public Records

To access public records in New Jersey, it helps to understand the state law and the process used to request them. 

In New Jersey, the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) was passed in 1963 and later updated in 2001. Currently, there are more than 20 million public records housed by various state agencies in the state. 

In order to effectively search for what you need, this state-specific guide provides direction on accessing criminal records, inmate records, court records, and vital records in New Jersey.

What does the New Jersey public records law say?

Public records in the state of New Jersey date back to the year 1621 and can be found across all 33 counties. Both third party and governmental websites offer these records online with increased reliability thanks to the ongoing standardization of digital public records. 

Many New Jersey State records are available online, which provides easy access and follows the rules of the New Jersey Inspection of Public Records Act, which presumes that all government information and records are available to the public.

The New Jersey Public Records law states that upon requesting records, a public agency has seven business days to respond unless there’s an interruption. If there is a hold up, the state government must communicate the problem and provide an updated timeline.

The law does exempt legislative records from the public, but all other branches are subject to the law.

How can a person access public records in New Jersey?

Some records are available online while others require a formal request form. If the public information that you’re looking for requires a request form, it can be delivered by 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 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.

New Jersey criminal records

The New Jersey Administrative Code authorizes the dissemination of the New Jersey Criminal History Record Information by the New Jersey State Police, Identification and Information Technology Section and the State Bureau of Identification. Only government entities of the state, private detectives, employers and individuals can request criminal records. One can choose to either check fingerprint-based records or the name-based records.

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 mug shot and 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 New Jersey criminal records?

Criminal records are available from New Jersey courts, detention centers, and law enforcement agencies at both the state and local levels. The easiest way to run a background check is to use the link above. The most detailed reports are returned when a fingerprint-based search is done. The state has several ways to obtain fingerprints, including virtual meetings. In addition to fingerprints, you’ll need to fill out an application and provide a mailing address for the report to be delivered to. Name-based searches are available as well. 

New Jersey inmate records

The New Jersey Department of Corrections oversees all matters with regards to all correctional facilities in the state from men’s prisons, to women’s prisons, to youth correctional facilities and even facilities for sex offenders.

What’s on an inmate record?

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

Where can a person find New Jersey inmate records?

All inmates’ records can be found in the search engine section on the Department of Corrections website by keying in their name and state identification number. Information like health records of the inmates is not disclosed. Only personal and administrative information is disclosed.

New Jersey court records

The New Jersey Open Public Records Act of 1995 allowed for disclosing all public records including court records. Some court documents can be tough to find, but the information below offers direction.

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 New Jersey court records?

Some of The Garden State’s court records are online while others must be requested. The link above should serve as a starting point. It will tell you if you can find records through a searchable database or if you need to visit a specific courthouse to request the documents formally. 

Except where prohibited by Supreme Court Rule or by statutes, the following courts must make their records available to the general public:

  • Civil Division including Chancery General Equity Records
  • Special Civil Part Records
  • Criminal Division Records
  • Family Division Records
  • Municipal Court Records

Copies of these records can also be purchased. 

New Jersey vital records

The Office of Vital Statistics (through the Department of Health) keeps records of birth, marriage, and death since 1919, domestic partnership records since 2004, civil unions since 2007, adoptions both foreign and domestic and lastly, birth certificates resulting from stillbirth since 1969.

What information is needed to request a vital record?

To obtain a vital record in New Jersey, 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 New Jersey vital records?

Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, users are advised to place an order either online or via mail. New Jersey has an easy-to-use online system where you can request a certified copy of a birth certificate, marriage license, or access death records, for example. There are fees associated with each request and you will need to verify your identity. 

Vital records are considered public, but they’re only released to the person listed on the record or a relative of the person. You many need to scan your driver’s license to prove your identity. 

Frequently asked questions about New Jersey records

To provide additional assistance to those looking for New Jersey public records, these FAQs should help.

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

Yes, requests can be made by non-residents of the state. 

Is there a records custodian in New Jersey?

Yes, there is a records custodian.

What exemptions exist?

The New Jersey Open Public Records Act spells out 19 exemptions. The exemptions are in regards to many sectors of the economy from education to legislative records to security and more.

How long does that state have to respond?

The state has seven days to respond to a request. Typically, the state is able to handle all requests in a timely manner. However, if a state withholds information longer than seven days, there is a penalty that they incur and an appeal can be made.

Is there an appeals process in place?

Yes, there is a very strong appeal process in New Jersey that involves filing the complaint with the government records council or the state Superior Court. It should be noted that there is no deadline for filing a complaint. However, after first denial, a requester only has 45 days to appeal the decision again to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

For electronic copies of the records, no fees are charged. Once a request has been sent, there may be some additional charges for the transmission media like a CD or DVD. Fees associated with paper copies of the records are charged depending on the number of pages of the records.

  • Updated December 5, 2020
  • States

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