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New York Public Records

New York Public Records Laws

New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) grants individuals the statutory right to inspect and copy New York’s public records. There are no limitations in place as to who can request access to this information.

The government bodies included within the bounds of the Freedom of Information Law include any state or municipal board, bureau, division, commission, committee or authority. The term public record is defined as any information that has been held, filed, produced or created by any agency mentioned above. Each agency is required to maintain records on the voting practices, names, titles and salaries of their employees.

While the definition of public record is quite broad, there are multiple exemptions which could hinder one’s ability to gain access to a source of information. For instance, any records that would interfere with bid or contract awards cannot be disclosed, as well as any information that would potentially compromise an ongoing law enforcement investigation.

In order to more fully understand New York’s public records law, examine New York’s Freedom of Information Law in its entirety.

New York Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

New York Criminal Records are maintained and distributed by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). Individuals can request to see their own criminal record, and they will then either be delivered with their record or a response of “no record” indicating that they do not have a criminal history record in the state of New York.

While individuals cannot ask for another person’s criminal history records, there are certain allowances for employment and licensing purposes. If a criminal history record is requested for purposes of employment or licensing, the request will be granted if there is a state law, local law or federal law of a New York State town, village, city or county that authorizes a fingerprint-based criminal history search for these instances.

The New York State Division of State Police oversees the maintenance and distribution of New York arrest records. These records are releasable to individuals involved in the arrest or to a person with a legitimate interest as stated by the Public Officers Law.

The New York Criminal State Division of Criminal Justice Services is responsible for overseeing and distributing state issued background checks.

New York Jail and Inmate Records

The New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision is responsible for maintaining and distributing New York jail and inmate records. Individuals seeking record information regarding inmates can utilize the name-based search tool available on the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision website. Searches can be done according to last name, first name, birth year, or department identification number.  A search result for an inmate will supply the sex, race, custody statistics, holding location and release facility of the person in question. It will also show their minimum and maximum sentences, as well as the earliest possible release date. Parole information may or may not be available.

More information regarding New York’s jail and inmate records can be found within New York’s Victim Notification Service (VINE) Profile.

New York Court Records

State and county level court records are held and overseen by the New York State Unified Court System. Electronic access to a wide array of court records, such as judicial decisions, case files, judicial decisions and other case information, is available on the New York State Unified Court System website.

More information regarding New York’s court records can be found on the website for the New York Office of Court Administration.

New York Vital Records

New York Vital Records are overseen by the New York State Department of Health. They consist of birth, death, marriage, divorce, fetal death and still birth certificates. Birth and death certificates are available from 1881, marriage licenses are available from 1880 and dissolution of marriage certificates are available from 1963.

Requests for New York Vital Records can be made in person, online or by mail, and more information regarding how to request vital records is available on the New York State Department of Health website.

  • Updated September 11, 2018
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