Wisconsin Public Records
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives all United States citizens access to public records, but each state has its own rule and regulations.
Gaining access to these files can be complicated if you don’t have the necessary information to streamline everything.
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 Wisconsin public records law say?
- 2 How can I access public records in Wisconsin?
- 3 Wisconsin Criminal Records
- 4 Wisconsin Inmate Records
- 5 Wisconsin Court Records
- 6 Wisconsin Vital Records
- 6.1 What information do I need to request a Wisconsin birth certificate?
- 6.2 Where can I find a Wisconsin birth certificate?
- 6.3 What information do I need for a death certificate in Wisconsin?
- 6.4 Where can I find a Wisconsin death certificate?
- 6.5 What information do I need for a marriage certificate in Wisconsin?
- 6.6 Where can I find a Wisconsin marriage certificate?
- 6.7 What information do I need for a divorce certificate in Wisconsin?
- 6.8 Where can I find a Wisconsin divorce certificate?
- 7 Wisconsin Property Records
- 8 FAQs
- 8.1 Can a request be submitted by non-residents of Wisconsin?
- 8.2 Is there a legal custodian in Wisconsin?
- 8.3 What exemptions exist for public records requests in Wisconsin?
- 8.4 How long does Wisconsin have to respond to a public records request?
- 8.5 Is there an appeals process in place for public records requests in Wisconsin?
- 8.6 What are the fees associated with requesting public records in Wisconsin?
What does the Wisconsin public records law say?
The Wisconsin Open Records Act was enacted in 1981 and stated that the public has a right to collect and analyze all public records unless it is expressly against the law. The state has more than 50 million records.
In Wisconsin, the state law mimics many of the statutes in the federal law, also known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
All branches of government are open for requests, which must be handled as quickly as possible, although the more specific language does not exist in the law.
The state attorney general is tasked with hearing complaints and disputes about requests and can issue opinions to generally followed agencies.
If a public records officer improperly deals with a request, a fine of up to $1,000 could apply. It includes fee disputes, as fees are to be kept to direct the actual cost of labor or copying. Fee waivers are available.
Wisconsin law says requesters do not have to live in the state to access public records.
How can I access public records in Wisconsin?
Requesters can access public records online or send a formal request to the record-holding department. If a formal request is necessary, you can deliver it by mail, email, or phone.
State agencies differ, 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
- 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
Wisconsin Criminal Records
All individual history records from various local and county sources are centralized and organized into one database in Wisconsin.
Criminal background reports are available to the public.
Wisconsin Department of Justice maintains criminal records in the state.
What’s on a criminal record?
A criminal record provides a detailed record of a person’s interactions with law enforcement.
Criminal records are pulled from various sources and include arrest records, convictions, and incarcerations within the state’s four prisons.
Traffic citations and some misdemeanors will not appear on a criminal record.
More specifically, a criminal record or a criminal background check will provide the following information:
- Date of birth
- Criminal charges
- Driver license number
- Restraining orders
- Current and past addresses
- Former arrest records
- Current and past warrants
Where can I find Wisconsin criminal records?
Criminal records, including arrest records, are available to employees through the Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Information Bureau (CIB).
Most employers conduct a search using a person’s name instead of one with fingerprints.
While fingerprint-based records are more accurate, most employers opt for name-based searches because they are cheaper and more accessible.
To search online, simply click on the link above. You will need to set up an account to access records.
The CIB is responsible for maintaining criminal history information submitted by local law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin.
The unit maintains more than 1.3 million records, which have been received from law enforcement agencies, district attorney offices, clerks of court, and municipal courts throughout the State of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Inmate Records
Inmate records for Wisconsin consist of offenders held across the state prisons, correctional inmate facilities, detention centers, and penal institutions throughout the state.
Overseen by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, they may also include information on sentencing, the class and type of offense, the parish where a case was tried, and the facility location of the inmate.
What’s on a Wisconsin inmate record?
The information listed on an inmate record varies, but in Wisconsin, the records usually contain personal information and specific details about a person’s incarceration situation.
Public access to inmate records can provide the following information when accessed:
- Name and aliases
- Date of Birth
- Height and weight
- DOC ID
- Booking photo
- Assigned location
- Sentence summary
Where can I find Wisconsin inmate records?
Information can be attained through the Department of Corrections Offender Locator portal on inmates within the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WDOC).
Users are allowed access to information regarding the inmate status of any individual throughout the system. Access to the portal requires entering an offender’s last name or ID number.
The system will return search results matching data points with the following additional fields: first name, birth year, race, the county where the disposition of the person’s criminal case occurred (or were incarcerated), zip code, and current status.
Members of the public can obtain inmate information or locate inmates by using the search engine tool provided by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. There are also web services managed by the county’s sheriff’s office that can be used to narrow down the search to specific county jails.
Wisconsin Court Records
Accessing court records can be complicated depending on the case type.
A requester must identify the courthouse where a case was heard in most states and request documents from the Court Clerk.
In Wisconsin, the process is more accessible.
What’s on a Wisconsin court record?
In most cases, case files are pretty large and come with many different documents.
Most people find the following documents the most helpful:
- Court minutes
- Court fees
- Court case number
- Orders of the court
- Judgment documentation
- Juror information
- Witness documentation
- Criminal case information
- Small claims decisions
Where can I find Wisconsin court records?
It allows you Wisconsin Circuit court access, as well as the Court of Appeals, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. To search documents, you’ll need some basic information.
You can search Circuit Court Records by name, birth date, or business name.
The more information you can provide, the more likely you will find the documents.
If you can’t find the records you’re looking for, you’ll need to access records the old fashion way. You’ll need to contact the Clerk of Courts office in the courthouse where the case was heard.
Example – Milwaukee County Clerk of Circuit Court
The Clerk of Circuit Court
901 North 9th Street, Room 104
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233
Phone number: 414-278-5362
Wisconsin Vital Records
The Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services maintains vital records in the state.
Wisconsin’s vital records include:
- Birth Certificates
- Death Certificates
- Marriage Licenses
- Divorce Decrees
Public record requests for vital records in Wisconsin will vary depending on the document you are requesting.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services Vital Records Office
WI Vital Records Office
1 West Wilson Street
P.O. Box 309
Madison, WI 53701-0309
Phone number: 608-266-1373
What information do I need to request a Wisconsin birth certificate?
The Wisconsin Birth Certificate Application will ask for specific information when ordering a birth record.
- Full name on the birth certificate
- County of birth
- City, village, or township of birth
- Parents’ full name
Where can I find a Wisconsin birth certificate?
You can order a Wisconsin birth certificate online by using VitalCheck.
Or, you can request a certified copy of a Wisconsin birth record by completing the Wisconsin Birth Certificate Application and submitting it by mail or in person.
The cost of a certified birth certificate in Wisconsin is $20.
What information do I need for a death certificate in Wisconsin?
The Wisconsin Death Certificate Application will ask for specific information when ordering a copy of a death record.
- Full name on the death record
- County of death
- City, village, or township of death
- Social security number of the deceased
- Spouse’s full name before marriage
- Parents’ full name before marriage
Where can I find a Wisconsin death certificate?
You can order a Wisconsin death certificate online by using VitalCheck.
Or, you can request a certified copy of a Wisconsin death record by completing the Wisconsin Death Certificate Application and submitting it by mail or in person.
The cost of a certified birth certificate in Wisconsin is $20.
What information do I need for a marriage certificate in Wisconsin?
The Wisconsin Marriage Certificate Application will ask for specific information when requesting a marriage license.
- Spouses’ full name before marriage
- Date of marriage
- County of marriage
- City, village, or township of marriage
Where can I find a Wisconsin marriage certificate?
You can order a Wisconsin marriage certificate online by using VitalCheck.
Or, you can request a certified copy of a Wisconsin marriage record by completing the Wisconsin Marriage Certificate Application and submitting it by mail or in person.
The cost of a certified marriage certificate in Wisconsin is $20.
What information do I need for a divorce certificate in Wisconsin?
The Wisconsin Divorce Certificate Application will ask for specific information when requesting a marriage license.
- Spouses’ full name before marriage
- County of divorce
- Date of divorce
Where can I find a Wisconsin divorce certificate?
You can order a Wisconsin divorce record online by e-filing using VitalCheck.
Or, you can request a certified copy of a Wisconsin divorce record by completing the Wisconsin Divorce Certificate Application and submitting it by mail or in person.
The cost of a certified divorce decree in Wisconsin is $20.
Wisconsin Property Records
The Register of Deeds maintains all property records in Wisconsin.
The property records you can access include:
- Land records
- Ordinance violations
- Property deeds
- Real estate information
- Property tax assessment records
- Zoning information
For data, parcel, and land use 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 Wisconsin?
You will need basic information to access a property record in Wisconsin.
Public request forms, fee schedules, and office hours will vary depending on the County Register of Deeds where the property record is maintained.
Where can I find a Wisconsin property record?
You will need to contact the Wisconsin Register of Deeds where the property record is maintained.
Example – Dane County Register of Deeds
Dane County Register of Deeds Public Records
City-County Building Room 110
210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Madison, WI 53703
Phone number: 608-267-1519
Can a request be submitted by non-residents of Wisconsin?
Non-residents of the state can submit requests.
Any United States citizen can request records from Wisconsin.
Is there a legal custodian in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin does not have a definite records custodian. However, the Attorney General gives advice and guidance to agencies concerning public records matters.
What exemptions exist for public records requests in Wisconsin?
Eight exemptions deal with law enforcement and trade secrets as defined by the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.
Other exemptions protect personnel records, or some documents may contain redaction of personal details or identifiable information, like a person’s home address.
The Wisconsin Open Records Act sought to reduce the number of exemptions on file.
You have the option to ask for the Attorney’s General to review the disclaimer.
How long does Wisconsin have to respond to a public records request?
In the state of Wisconsin, there are no timelines set for state officials to respond to a request.
Delays without explanation can lead to disputes among the parties involved.
Is there an appeals process in place for public records requests in Wisconsin?
Should any disputes arise, the state of Wisconsin provides for an appeals process that’s in place.
The process involves filing with the court that the agency in question resides within 45 days from when the final response was given.
What are the fees associated with requesting public records in Wisconsin?
The fees associated with requesting public records, including getting copies of documents, are nominal. Municipalities charge fees for the copies depending on whether they are black and white or colored copies.
The black and white copies are relatively cheaper than the colored copies.
The media or those requesting the public records for public interest may get fees waived.