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Ohio Public Records

Ohio started keeping records back in 1789. Some of the first records were property records and vital records like those that track births and deaths. Back then, records were kept on paper. Today, like most states, Ohio has embraced digital records. Back in the  1980s, the state started keeping electronic records and even started transferring old records to electronic ones.

Today, citizens of the United States can request Ohio records. You don’t need to live in Cleveland, Columbus, or any Ohio city to make a request.

To help people navigate the world of public records, which can be a little confusing, this guide can provide direction to criminal, inmate, court, and inmate records. 

What does the Ohio public records law say?

Ohio has a special history compared to other states in that its access to public records predates its actual statehood. A 1901 court decision stated explicitly that the public records are the people’s records, and unless there is a statute in place, the rights of the people to examine their records must remain in practice. 

It must be noted however, that in Ohio, there are quite a few statutes that can hamper a public records search. 

The public records act doesn’t provide a specific response time to a records request, it just says that request should be handled within a reasonable period of time.   

If a request for records is denied, there isn’t an administrative appeal process in the state, but requesters can pay $25 and file a complaint to the Ohio Court of Claims, which has seven days to respond, and 45 days to issue a decision that is legally binding. 

To learn more, visit Ohio.gov.

How can a person access public records in Ohio?

Some public records can be found online while others require a more formal request.

If a formal request is necessary, it can take place by mail, email, or by phone and should be directed 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, 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. 

Ohio criminal records

In Ohio, The Identification Division of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation provides the latest records to employers who want to run background checks on potential employees. The division acts as the central repository for all felony records within the state, maintaining fingerprints, photographs, and other information related to criminal records in Ohio.

What’s on a criminal record?

A criminal record provides a detailed report of a person’s interactions with law enforcement. These records are compiled from various sources and include arrest records, convictions, and incarcerations within the state’s nine prisons.

More specifically, a criminal record or a background check will provide the following information: 

  • Personal information like a person’s name, birth date, nationality, etc.
  • A mugshot and full set of fingerprints
  • A list of distinguishing features (tattoos, birthmarks, and other physical attributes)
  • The type of offense (misdemeanor or felony) and description of the crime

Where can a person find Ohio criminal records?

The Bureau of Crime Identification & Investigation (BCI&I), which is a subsidiary of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, offers WebCheck for civilian background checks. These checks are fairly quick, taking only a few hours to conduct, with the results available through the U.S. Postal Service. More information is available on Ohio’s WebCheck system

For requests for a complete set of fingerprints for criminal records, a business check, money order, or e-payment made out to the Treasurer of the State of Ohio for $22 will begin the process. 

If you can’t find what you’re looking for online, records can also be requested through the Sheriff’s Office in the county where the person lives. The fees associated with a request are minimal and some offices have no fees for background checks. 

Ohio inmate records

As the 6th largest prison system in America, Ohio operates 30 state prisons and possesses inmate records which comprise personal and official data of those that have been incarcerated by the state and held in Ohio’s jails, prisons, or penal institutions. The records of each inmate are typically held at the site of where the inmate resides and includes the following information:

  • Full name of detainee (plus any aliases)
  • Full physical descriptions (birthmarks, scars)
  • Mugshots
  • Details of arrest and booking
  • Primary and secondary charges
  • bail/bond conditions and relevant court and/or information on release

What’s on an inmate record?

The information listed on inmate records vary a bit from state to state; in Ohio 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 Ohio inmate records?

Inmate records in the state of Ohio can be searched through the Offender Search Tool that is available on the DRC website. To search for an inmate, input the inmate’s name and unique DOC number. The website is regularly updated. You can expect to find the location of a person, the jail’s contact information, inmate status, and any information regarding a release or pardon. 

Ohio court records

The Ohio Open Records Law passed in 1954 and guarantees that court records are available to any member of the public, thereby making it a fundamental right to all residents of Ohio. The records open to the general public include, sworn affidavits, documentation on allegations, and all proceedings taken under oath. 

In a small percentage of cases, court records may be sealed or may have redaction for certain circumstances.  

What’s on a court record?

In most cases, court records are quite large and come with several varying documents. Most people find these documents the most helpful: 

  • Court minutes
  • Case files
  • Dockets
  • Orders of the court
  • Judgement documentation
  • Jury records and files
  • Witness documentation

Where can a person find Ohio court records?

  • Resource: Visit county-specific websites

Finding court records in the state of Ohio is fairly complicated. While other states have created an online portal to house and search court records, Ohio has not. 

The best way to access court records is to search for the county court or municipal court where the case was heard. Some countries do have records available online. Franklin County, for example, has an online database of cases.  

If a county doesn’t have an online database, you need to speak with the county clerk or the clerk of courts and put in a records request.

The Ohio Supreme Court also provides an extensive number of court files online. To begin a search, visit the state’s supreme court website.

Ohio vital records

Ohio, as with most states, has an office in charge of maintaining birth records, marriage records, and death records. The Ohio Department of Health through The Bureau of Vital Statistics operates a statewide system for the registration of births, deaths, and other vital events within the state.

What information is needed to request a vital record?

A request for information can be done via the Ohio Bureau of Vital Statistics site, where interested parties can provide relevant information about a specific record. This information may include:

  • 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 Ohio vital records?

Birth records from 1908 and death records from 1964 to present day are maintained at the Bureau of Vital Statistics, which also manages fetal death, heirloom birth, and stillbirth certificates as well. You can order certified copies of records online. You’ll make the request, pay a fee, and receive the copy in the mail. 

Notably, marriage and divorce records are not maintained at the Bureau of Vital Statistics. For certified copies of marriage licenses and divorce certificates, obtain them from the county where the event was recorded. Visit this listing of county clerks to determine where to request files. 

Frequently asked questions about Ohio records

To further understand the public records policy in Ohio, here’s a list of commonly asked questions: 

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

Yes, even non-residents are able to submit a request for records. 

Is there a records custodian in Ohio?

No.

What exemptions exist?

All of the public offices within the state of Ohio fall under public records law. 

How long does that state have to respond?

In Ohio, there is no set deadline for a response, but agencies typically respond very promptly.

Is there an appeals process in place?

There is no administrative appeal for the state of Ohio, but requesters do have the option of filing an appeal in the Ohio Courts of Claim for $25. Generally, fees associated with the actual costs materials, aside from labor, may be charged. 

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

The state of Ohio can charge for the cost of materials, but don’t charge for labor. 

  • Updated October 26, 2020
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