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 Arizona laws governing public records?
Title 39 of the Arizona Revised Statutes is the Arizona public records law that covers the regulation and maintenance of public records in the state. The statute states that paper copies of the permanent public records of a county or municipality should be transcribed and stored according to the storage standards of the director of the Arizona state library, archives, and public records.
Title 39 also clarifies who has the right to request or access public records in the state, while outlining the appropriate procedures for requesting records. Additionally, it states which records are closed in the state, which includes birth certificates less than 75 years old, juvenile probate records, and adoption records.
Examples of Arizona Public Records
Arizona public records include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal records
- Court cases
- Marriage records
- Divorce records
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Arizona:
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Birth certificates (for 75 years)
- Death certificates (for 50 years)
- Adoption records (for 99 years)
- Library information
- Medical records
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Arizona public records?
- Arizona Corporation Commission: Search – Search for Arizona businesses to learn their entity type, location, and current status (active or inactive).
- Arizona County Recorder’s Offices – Contact your local County Recorder’s Office for real estate records and property liens.
- Arizona Department of Revenue – Maintains business licenses in Arizona.
- Arizona Judicial Branch Public Access to Court Information: Case Search – A free searchable database of court case information from 177 of the 184 Arizona courts, including the Arizona Supreme Court.
- County Clerk of Court Directory – Court records that cannot be found online may be requested from the county clerk of the superior court in the county where the case originated. This directory contains the contact information of all Arizona county clerks.
- Arizona Court of Appeals, Division 1 – Maintains many court cases filed within 15 years.
- Arizona Court of Appeals, Division II – Maintains many court cases filed within 10 years.
- Arizona State Archives – Overseen by the Arizona Secretary of State, the Arizona State Archives maintains County Superior Court records that are over 50 years old. These records are open to the public. The State Archives is located in the Polly Rosenbaum State Archives and History Building in Phoenix. Office hours are Monday – Friday, 8 AM – 5 PM.
- Arizona Department of Public Safety: Criminal Records Unit – Complete and submit a Record Review packet to obtain a copy of your Arizona criminal record.
- Your local police department – Arrest records, police reports, and other criminal history information may also be requested in person at a local law enforcement office.
Sex Offender Information
- Arizona Sex Offender Search – The Arizona Sex Offender Registry is maintained by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Users can search by name, city, area, email address, or perform a search of non-compliant offenders.
- Arizona Department of Health Services: Bureau of Vital Records – While most types of vital records are closed in the state of Arizona, individuals can order certified copies of their own vital records or the vital records of close family members through this state agency.
- Arizona State Archives – Maintains historic birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, and death records that are no longer legally inaccessible.