With the creation of open record laws like the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), it’s easier than ever to access documents that were once unavailable to the general public. That’s not to say finding criminal, court, inmate or vital records in Oregon is always simple; only that access to public records has improved over the past few decades.
In the Beaver State, the Oregon Public Records Law was designed to guarantee that members of the public have access to documents from every government agency at all levels. Sometimes, the information is exempt from the Oregon Public Meetings Law or the Oregon Public Records Law. Other times, the information falls under the public records umbrella but is harder to track down because it’s handled by different agencies or departments.
Use this guide to help you track down the specific Oregon public records you seek. Whether it’s proof of a divorce, a court case, an incarcerated ex or birth record, this guide can help narrow down your search to save time.
Table of Contents
- 1 What does the Oregon public records law say?
- 2 How can a person access public records in Oregon?
- 3 Oregon criminal records
- 4 Oregon inmate records
- 5 Oregon court records
- 6 Oregon vital records
- 7 Frequently asked questions about Oregon records
What does the Oregon public records law say?
Enacted in 1973, the Oregon Public Records Law is similar to the federal law and says that a public record includes “any writing that contains information that relates to the conduct of the public’s business, is prepared, owned, used or maintained by a public body regardless of physical form or characteristics.” This does not include information contained on a privately owned computer.
To learn more about the public records law, visit Oregon.gov.
How can a person access public records in Oregon?
One simple way to request a public record is by using the Oregon Sample FOIA Request template. Created by the National Freedom of Information Coalition, the letter can be sent to the agency that you believe holds the record.
The sample letter provides much of the information you’ll need to improve your chances of getting a prompt response, including:
- A place to indicate your name and contact information
- A place to detail the public record you are seeking
- A place to limit the maximum fees you are willing to pay (and a request to be informed if the costs will exceed that amount)
- A request to be contacted if the agency expects a significant delay in fulfilling the public records request
- A request to cite each specific exemption if the request is refused
- An explanation of the appeal procedure if the public records request is denied
Oregon criminal records
Oregon state law provides limited public access to criminal history records through the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division in Salem. You can request a copy of your own criminal record using your fingerprints or someone else’s using their name, date of birth, and last known mailing address.
By law, the Oregonian or the individual whose record you are requesting must be notified of your request. They have 14 days to challenge the accuracy of the criminal offender information. Employers or prospective employers are required to inform the person whose criminal record they will be requesting in advance and indicate on the request form how they informed the record-holder.
What’s on a criminal record?
Unlike more detailed background checks, Oregon’s criminal record results may provide less detailed information. If there is no “rap sheet” to report, or the person’s record consists only of non-conviction data, you’ll get nothing more than a notice that there is no criminal record. If the request turns up a criminal history, you will receive any Oregon record of conviction or Oregon record of arrest less than one year old in which there has been no acquittal or dismissal. This information will include:
- Date of arrest
- Arresting agency
- Court of origin
- Disposition, which includes the sentence imposed and if applicable, the date of parole and parole revocations
Although requests can be made by mail or email by submitting this Request for Oregon Criminal History Information, results that include a criminal history can only be mailed (not emailed).
Where can a person find Oregon criminal records?
- Resource: Oregon State Police
The Oregon State Police is the state agency that manages criminal history information for the state. Access is provided through the Oregon State Police’s CJIS Division’s own record program or open records.
For employers seeking to do a more thorough background check on employees or prospective employees, there is another option. In 2020, Oregon started using the Oregon Criminal History and Abuse Records Data System (ORCHARDS) as its background check system. The Background Check Unit (BCU) requires employers to obtain authorization from the subject individual (SI) to perform such a check. This gives the SI time to enter the authorization and any disclosures. This is done by requiring the employer to enter an email address for the SI when submitting a background check request.
Oregon inmate records
There are currently around 30,000 offenders under supervision in Oregon with approximately 14,900 offenders serving their time in the state’s 14 prisons. To learn more about visiting, contacting or sending money to an inmate, visit Oregon’s prison locations page.
What’s on an inmate record?
Search results will show the following information for each offender:
- Age and month/year of birth
- Heigh, weight, race, and hair and eye color
- Location (e.g., current correctional institution)
- Field admission date
- Earliest release date
- List of offenses (including docket number, county, crime, sentence type, start date and termination date)
- VINE link for the offender
Where can a person find Oregon inmate records?
The Oregon Department of Corrections hosts a searchable web portal that the public can use to find offenders in the state. This public website displays information on offenders currently in the custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections or a local Community Corrections office. Results only include information associated with the offender’s current incarceration; not a full history of all charges, sentences or incarcerations. Searches can be done by first, middle or last name or State Identification (SID) Number.
Oregon court records
If you have public interest in court records, many Oregon court records are available through an online record search, although there are limitations. The Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) does not provide court related to adoption, juvenile or mental health cases, or cases that fall under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
What’s on a court record?
Court documents are not available through the OJD Online Records Search and personal identifying information—such as social security numbers, address or other private information—will not be shown in the results. However, most circuit courts have a court kiosk which provides some additional information and access to most documents on public court records.
So what court records are available through the OJD Online Records Search?
- Basic case information
- Party information
- Event entries
- Dispositions on a particular court record
Where can a person find Oregon court records?
The Oregon Judicial Department provides free online access to limited case information in the state courts, circuit courts, court of appeals, and supreme court, although the results should not be relied upon as an official record of the court.
There are two ways to obtain the full official register for non-confidential case types: Via the courthouse public terminals or, for some business entities, by subscribing to the OJCIN online.
As for the specifics of what information search results will present, you may find:
- Warrants (including the status, issue date, location and warrant number)
- Cases (including the type, file date, status and location)
- Judgments (including the date/time of judgment, type and award)
Oregon vital records
Oregon’s Public Health Division has a dedicated vital records department. The Center for Health Statistics issues requestors copies of vital records for marriages, divorces, deaths and births that occurred in Oregon. Some of these records can also be obtained through the local health department in Oregon counties.
Although the Oregon State Vital Records counters are currently closed for in-person records requests, orders are still being accepted by mail, phone and online.
What information is needed to request a vital record?
As in other states, vital records in Oregon may be accessed restricted based on the relationship of the requestor to the person of record. To order by telephone or phone, regular mail or rush mail, you may need to provide any or all of the following:
- A valid ID or alternative ID
- The date of the birth, death, marriage, divorce, etc.
- The full name of the person whose record you are requesting
- Relationship to the person of record or your interest in obtaining the vital record
A detailed list of required information for each type of vital record can be found on Oregon’s Vital Records page.
Where can a person find Oregon vital records?
- Resource: Oregon Vital Statistics VitalChek
The Oregon uses VitalChek to fulfill online orders for vital records. Although the identity of the applicant is typically screened using a Social Security Number, you may be required to provide a Valid ID or alternative ID to access the public record.
There is a nonrefundable fee of $43.25 to order a record search and additional copies of the same record are $25 if ordered at the same time. Records are shipped within three business days in most cases, although Express Mail or UPS Next Day Air is available for an additional fee. Applicants can pay by credit or debit card.
Information on ordering by phone or mail is available on the Oregon’s Vital Records page.
Frequently asked questions about Oregon records
For any United States citizen who is curious about Oregon public records, here are some of the most common questions about Oregon public records:
Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?
There are no residency requirements for obtaining Oregon public records. In other words, you can live in Portland or Manhattan and request records.
Is there a records custodian in Oregon?
There is no designated records custodian in Oregon.
What exemptions exist?
The exemptions in Oregon are fairly straightforward. Records that contain personal information, deal with matters of public safety, or include addresses of elected officials, for example, are all exempt from public disclosure. Most exemptions of Oregon’s Public Records Law are standard and can be found here.
How long does that state have to respond?
There is no specific deadline to respond, although the law states that agencies should be given “reasonable opportunity to inspect and copy records.”
Is there an appeals process?
There is no appeals option in the state of Oregon. While many states offer an administrative appeals option through the attorney general, Oregon does not. A requester can, however, file a lawsuit.
What fees are associated with requesting public records?
Fees must be kept to the actual costs of searching and copying records. Agencies must provide the requestor with an estimate if the fee will exceed $25 before proceeding. There are fee waivers for media outlets.