What are public records?
Public records are documents held by the government that members the general public has the right to access and view. They may exist as tangible paper copies of records held by in a government repository or as electronic records within an online database.
Common types of public records include criminal records, court records, and vital records such as birth and death certificates. Public records can be accessed by the general public by making a public records request to the appropriate government agency.
Which federal law deals with public records in the United States?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 1967 is the major federal law regarding public records in the United States. The FOIA requires federal government agencies to release documents to the public when they make a records request, as long as the record in question doesn’t fall under one of nine exemptions outlined in the law. However, most people do not take advantage of the FOIA, and most record requests are made by businesses, law firms, and professionals.
Generally, if public records are to be used for a commercial purpose, the requester of the record must notify the agency of their intent while submitting the request.
What are the Alaska laws governing public records?
Alaska’s public records law is the Alaska Public Records Act, which states that a majority of records held by state and municipal government bodies are open to inspection by members of the general public. Only records that are legally exempt for a specific reason can be withheld from the public.
The Alaska Public Records Act defines public records as “books, papers, files, accounts, writings, including drafts and memorializations of conversations, and other items, regardless of format or physical characteristics, that are developed or received by a public agency, or by a private contractor for a public agency, and that are preserved for their informational value or as evidence of the organization or operation of the public agency; ‘public records’ does not include proprietary software programs.”
The Alaska Public Records Act: Alaska Statute 44.25.110 et seq.
Examples of Alaska Public Records
Alaska public records include, but are not limited to:
- Birth certificates (100 years after filing date)
- Death certificates (50 years after filing date)
- Marriage records (50 years after filing date)
- Divorce records (50 years after filing date)
- Court records
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Alaska:
- Birth certificates (less than 100 years after filing date)
- Death certificates (less than 50 years after filing date)
- Marriage records (less than 50 years after filing date)
- Divorce records (less than 50 years after filing date)
- Criminal records
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Library information
- Medical records
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Alaska public records?
- Alaska Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing: Search Corporations Database – Lookup an Alaska business to learn its formation date, entity type, current status, and more.
- Alaska Court System: Courtview Public Access Website – Access limited case information for Alaska civil and criminal cases.
- Alaska Court System: Request Copies of Case Files – Complete and submit the appropriate form to request detailed case information for a specific case.
- Alaska Court System: Court Directory – Contact information for every Alaska court. Making a public records request to the court clerk of the court where the case originated is often the most effective way to access information on a specific case.
- Alaska Department of Public Safety: Background Check Requests – While the State of Alaska does not offer an online search tool for criminal history information, individuals can request a copy of their own criminal record by following the procedure outlined on this page.
- Alaska State Archives – The central repository for historical public records in Alaska. Although the physical building is located in Juneau, many collections can be accessed online in digitized form through the website.
Sex Offender Information
- Alaska Sex Offender/Child Kidnapper Registry – The state’s sex offender registry is maintained by the Alaska Department of Public Safety, which makes the registry available online to be searched by members of the general public. Users can search the database by name, city, area, or email address/internet name.
- Alaska Department of Health and Social Services: Health Analytics & Vital Records – Authorized persons may request certified copies of birth, death, marriage, and divorce records through this state agency.