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Washington, D.C. Public Records

Washington, D.C. Public Records

Washington, D.C. is the nation’s capital and home to the center of the country’s political system. From the White House to the halls of Congress, important decisions are made every day that affect all our lives. The types of work performed in the city involves the handling of sensitive and in some cases classified and confidential information necessary to keep our nation strong and protected.

Individuals seeking employment in Washington, D.C. generally must submit to rigorous background checks before receiving required clearances or authorizations to work with government agencies or those companies that support the work of the city. A background check will access those public records that provide information about a person’s criminal and civil background, as well as ensure that the person’s background is suitable for the type of employment opportunity in which they seek.

Washington, D.C. Public Records Laws

Any person has the right to request access to publicly available records of other persons. This right is provided under the District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act or FOIA, under sections 2-531-539 of the D.C. Code. A formal request may be submitted online through the DC government Public FOIA Portal. Requests may also be made via mail, fax or email however online requests are handled more quickly. Documents that may not be available through a FOIA request include documents related to law-enforcement activities, those documents subject to attorney-client and work-product privilege and other documents required to be withheld under law. A complete list of exempt documents can be found in section 2-534 of the D.C. Code.

Washington, D.C. Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

A search for criminal records, including arrest records and background checks of a person may only be requested by the person upon whom the information is based, unless authorization is given by that person to a third-party (i.e. an employer). Known as police clearances, these requests are handled through the Metropolitan Police Department for the District of Columbia and must be requested in person. A person seeking a police clearance must complete the PD Form 70 (“Criminal History Request”) and pay $7. Requests typically take up to 24 hours to process and 10 days to complete.

Washington, D.C. Jail and Inmate Records

Information concerning the status of an individual who is currently incarcerated in the District of Columbia can be accessed by calling the D.C. Department of Corrections Department of Records Office at (202) 523-7060 or using the Victim Information & Notification Everyday (VINE) portal. You will need to register with VINE and must have the inmate’s offender ID number, last and first name in order to determine their location and current disposition. There is no public online database that D.C. offers on inmates other than what may be requested through the Department of Corrections or via VINE.

Washington, D.C. Court Records

The D.C. Court Cases online portal provides information on civil and criminal cases adjudicated in the District of Columbia. Information provided in the portal can be accessed on any person or company where a case has been filed, either in Small Claims Court, the Landlord & Tenant Branch, Civil, and Criminal Court.

Washington, D.C. Vital Records

Vital records for a person born in the District of Columbia are maintained by the Department of Health. These records include birth, death, domestic partnership registration, marriage and divorce records. Persons who are permitted access to vital records include those with a “direct and tangible interest” in such records as defined in section 7-220(1) of the D.C. Code. This includes the registrant (person) upon whom the record is based, immediate family member, guardian or legal representative. If a person requesting a vital record is not the registrant or immediate family member, a direct and tangible interest must be demonstrated in order to protect the person’s personal and property right.

Requests may be accommodated in person or by mail as well as by phone at (877) 572-6332. Requests for vital records may also be made online through, a source for certified vital records. The Department maintains birth, death, marriage and divorce records dating back to August 1874 and records regarding domestic partnerships since 1992.

  • Updated September 11, 2018
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