New York Public Records
New York is one of the unique states for Freedom of Information laws because it operates two different systems for delivering public information to those requesting it.
Also, the single agency that receives the most FOIL request, the New York Police Department (NYPD), operates independently even though they are under the same laws as the rest of the city.
While the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) grants U.S. citizens the right to review records, each state has its version.
Since the process is not straightforward, it helps to know exactly where to go to make the process as simple as possible.
Every state has different processes, so it’s essential to know the state’s law before requesting any documents.
Table of Contents
- 1 What does the New York public records law say?
- 2 How can I access public records in New York?
- 3 New York Criminal Records
- 4 New York Inmate Records
- 5 New York Court Records
- 6 New York Vital Records
- 6.1 What information do I need to request a New York State birth certificate?
- 6.2 Where can I find a New York State birth certificate?
- 6.3 What information do I need for a death certificate in New York?
- 6.4 Where can I find a New York State death certificate?
- 6.5 What information do I need to request a marriage certificate in New York?
- 6.6 Where can I find an existing New York marriage record?
- 6.7 What information do I need to request a divorce certificate in New York?
- 6.8 Where can I find an existing New York divorce record?
- 7 New York Property Records
- 8 FAQs
- 8.1 Can a public records request be submitted by non-residents of New York?
- 8.2 Is there a records custodian in New York?
- 8.3 What exemptions exist for public records requests in New York?
- 8.4 How long does New York have to respond to a public records request?
- 8.5 Is there an appeals process in place for public records requests in New York?
- 8.6 What fees are associated with requesting public records in New York?
What does the New York public records law say?
The New York Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) helps ensure that citizens of the state have access to public records.
Under State of New York laws, government agencies must acknowledge your request within five days but not longer than 20 days after. All government agencies from the executive, legislative, and state agencies fall under the public information law.
There is no residency requirement to ask for public records, so the requester can live outside the state and still make the request. Requesters have 30 days to file an appeal.
With the NYPD, all requests must be made in writing, and they can issue a “neither confirm nor deny” response.
To learn more about public access to records, visit NewYork.gov.
How can I access public records in New York?
Some records are available online, while others require a formal request. If a request is necessary, it can be delivered by mail, email, or 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. This can be done by email, mail, or phone, depending on the department where the request is submitted.
In general, a public records request should include:
- Your name
- Contact information
- The name of the document
- Details about the document
- A time frame that you would like to receive the materials by
- Document delivery method, mail or email
New York Criminal Records
New York, like every state, has a vast array of criminal records available. Getting them from New York City versus the rest of the state can result in a vastly different experience. There are many reasons for seeking out criminal records.
The primary reason is employment, as most employers require a background check. Other causes could include completing a business contract, volunteering, or proceeding with an adoption.
The New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services maintains criminal records in the state.
What’s on a New York criminal record?
Criminal history records contain information regarding a person’s contact with law enforcement and court case outcomes. Details are pulled from local police departments, local criminal courts, and the state prison system.
More specifically, a criminal record or a background check will provide the following information:
- Date of birth
- Driver license number
- Current and past addresses
- Former arrest records
- Current and past warrants
Where can I find New York criminal records?
The New York State Office of Court Administration provides a statewide criminal history search for a flat fee of $95. Requests can be submitted online or by mailing in an application.
Search criteria are strict, and you must have an exact match of the name and the birth date. Companies can submit requests as part of the program.
Search results related to open and pending cases and convictions in criminal cases in all of New York’s 62 counties.
It excludes sealed records, and some data from towns and villages are limited.
Other limitations include:
- No family, civil or federal cases are included
- It doesn’t include non-criminal cases or misdemeanor cases
- It doesn’t have youth offender cases
- Criminal cases transferred or removed to family court as not included
New York Inmate Records
New York has more than 51,000 inmates incarcerated in its prison system throughout the state. A requester may have several reasons for seeking out inmate information.
- The person could be a victim or witness in a case and want to know an inmate’s status.
- The person is a non-profit that helps inmates in some instances or a lawyer reviewing a case.
- The person is also an employer wanting to know more about the time served by a potential employee.
The New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) maintains inmate records in the state.
What’s on a New York inmate record?
New York is similar to other states in what it has on an inmate record. Once a requester gets an inmate record, they will have the following information:
- Name and aliases
- Date of Birth
- Height and weight
- DOC ID
- Booking photo
- Assigned location
- Sentence summary
Where can I find New York inmate records?
The New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision offers an online search tool for inmate information. Requesters can use the name solely or use the name combined with a birth year.
Requesters can also use the Department identification number of the New York State identification number. However, if you use one of those, do not put in a name or birth year as they are meant to be used alone.
New York Court Records
New York state court records can be helpful in certain situations as they provide much valuable information about a case.
Employers may want to know more about a particular case that involves an employee or job applicant.
Others in similar court cases involving the same suspect may wish for the information.
Sometimes, people look into local court cases to find out about their parent’s past or other family members as a part of genealogy.
What’s on a New York court record?
In most cases, court records are quite large and come with several documents.
Most people find these documents the most helpful:
- Court minutes
- Case files
- Court opinions
- Orders of the court
- Judgment documentation
- Jury records and files
- Witness documentation
- Case information
Court records are not subject to the FOIL in New York.
Court records are subject to disclosure under Section 255 of the Judiciary Law.
Where can I find New York court records?
Requests for court records in New York go directly to the Clerk of Court or the County Clerk possessing the documents.The New York Court system is large and complicated.
That means requesters will need to contact the local New York Clerk of Court Administration where the case was handled.
The NYPD might maintain specific police or prosecution records if the arrest was made within New York City. They may also be supported by the local district attorney’s office that prosecuted the case. Requests should be sent to those agencies.
The law allows a court clerk to charge “fees at the rate allowed to a county clerk for similar service.” This includes copying and labor in searching for records.
New York Vital Records
New York City maintains the vital records for the jurisdiction. New York State maintains vital records for the remainder of the state.
New York vital records include:
- Birth Certificates
- Death Certificates
- Marriage Licenses
- Divorce Decrees
Public record requests for vital records in New York will vary depending on the document you are requesting, and who you are requesting it from.
The New York State Department of Health
Vital Records Section/2nd floor
800 North Pearl Street
Menands, NY 12204
Phone number: 855-322-1022
The New York City Health Department
NYC Health Department
Office of Vital Records
125 Worth Street, CN4, Rm. 133
New York, NY 10013-4090
What information do I need to request a New York State birth certificate?
The Mail-in Application for Copy of Birth Certificate will ask for specific information when ordering a birth record.
- Full name on the birth record
- Date of birth
- Town, city, or village where the birth took place
- Birth certificate number
- Name of the hospital
- Parents’ full name before marriage
Where can I find a New York State birth certificate?
You can order a New York State birth certificate online by e-filing using VitalCheck.
Or, you can request a certified copy of a New York birth record by completing the Mail-in Application for Copy of Birth Certificate and submitting it by mail or in person.
The cost of a certified birth certificate in the state of New York is $30.
What information do I need for a death certificate in New York?
The Mail-in Application for Copy of Death Certificate will ask for specific information when ordering a death record.
- The full name of the deceased
- Social security number of the deceased
- The date of death
- Date of birth
- Age at death
- Parents’ full name before marriage
Where can I find a New York State death certificate?
You can order a New York State death certificate online by using VitalCheck.
Or, you can request a certified copy of a New York death record by completing the Mail-in Application for Copy of Death Certificate and submitting it by mail or in person.
The cost of a certified death certificate in the state of New York is $30.
What information do I need to request a marriage certificate in New York?
In New York, the Office of the City Clerk maintains marriage records. It means that forms will differ.
Where can I find an existing New York marriage record?
You can request a certified copy of a New York marriage record by contacting the City Clerk where the marriage took place.
Example – New York City Manhattan Bureau
The Office of the City Clerk – NYC Marriage Bureau
Office of the City Clerk
141 Worth Street
Attn: Record Room
New York, New York 10013
What information do I need to request a divorce certificate in New York?
Individual counties maintain marriage records in New York.
The forms, fees, and office hours of a County Clerk will vary depending on the county where the marriage occurred.
Where can I find an existing New York divorce record?
You can request a certified copy of a New York divorce record by contacting the County Clerk where the divorce decree was issued.
Example – Bronx City Clerk’s Office
Bronx County Clerk Office website
851 Grand Concourse
Rm. 118, Bronx
New York, NY 10451
Phone number: 718-618-3377
New York Property Records
The Office of the City Register maintains NY State property records in the state.
The property records you can access include:
- Land records
- Property deeds
- Property tax assessment records
- Zoning information
For data, parcel, and tax maps, you will need to contact the Geographic Information System(GIS) to ask about public access.
What information do I need to request property records in New York?
You will need basic information to access a public property record in New York.
Forms, fees, and office hours will vary depending on the County Register’s Office.
Where can I find a New York property record?
You will need to contact the County Clerk where the New York property record is maintained.
Example – Nassau County Clerk
Nassau County Clerk forms
240 Old Country Rd
Mineola, NY 11501
Phone number: 516-571-2660
Can a public records request be submitted by non-residents of New York?
New York does not have a residency requirements to obtain public records.
Whether you live in Manhattan, Albany, or Minneapolis, any United States citizen can make a request.
Is there a records custodian in New York?
The state does not have a records custodian.
However, every New York government agency has policy and procedure concerning public records custodians.
What exemptions exist for public records requests in New York?
Exemptions to public records searches include the judiciary, and a separate law governs that.
How long does New York have to respond to a public records request?
Those making the request must receive a denial, response, or acknowledgment within five days.
It should also have a date the request would be fulfilled not to exceed 20 days.
Is there an appeals process in place for public records requests in New York?
There is an appeals process. Appeals must be made in writing within 30 days of denial.
The request must be made to the head of the governing body, entity, or person designated as head.
Government agencies in New York have ten business days of receiving the appeal to explain in writing either the reasons for denial entirely or to be granted access.
What fees are associated with requesting public records in New York?
The first two hours of search time are free, and fees may cover search time beyond that. There are also copying costs. There are no provisions for fee waivers.