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 is the Colorado law governing public records?
Colorado’s public records law is the Colorado Open Records Act, which states that “public records shall be open for inspection by any person at reasonable times”.
COPR defines public records as “all writings made, maintained, or kept by the state, any agency, institution, a non-profit corporation incorporated pursuant to section 23-5-121 (2), C.R.S., or political subdivision of the state”.
Examples of Colorado Public Records
Colorado public records include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal records
- Court case information
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Colorado:
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Library information
- Medical records
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates
- Marriage records
- Divorce records
Where can I access Colorado public records?
- Colorado Secretary of State: Business Database Search – Search Colorado businesses and learn their formation date, ID number, current status, and more.
- Colorado State Archives: Incorporation Records – The State Archives possesses a large collection of historic business records. Click here to use the Archives Search.
- Cocourts.com – The Colorado Judicial Branch does not have an official court records search tool, but individuals can use this fee-based service to search for Colorado court case records and information.
- Colorado Judicial Branch: Contact Information By County – The best way to access a specific case record is by making a public records request to the clerk of court in the county where the case originated. This link includes the contact information of every Colorado court organized by county.
- Colorado Judicial Branch: Clerk of the Supreme Court – Contact the Clerk of the Supreme Court for more information on accessing Colorado Supreme Court records.
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation: Internet Criminal History Check System (ICHC) – This fee-based search tool provided by the CBI allows individuals to run a criminal history search on anyone for $5 a search. Users have the choice of doing a one-time search as a guest or creating an account.
- Colorado Police Departments – A directory of all the police departments in Colorado. Your local police department is one of the best places to request criminal history information.
- Colorado State Archives – A vast number of historic legislative, genealogical, legal, and other types of records are stored in the Colorado State Archives. The building is located in Denver one block south of the Colorado State Capitol.
Sex Offender Information
- Colorado Sex Offender Registry – The state sex offender registry is maintained by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and is searchable by members of the general public. Users can search by name or do a map search.
- Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment: Birth, Death, and Other Vital Records – While viewing the vital records of others is prohibited in Colorado, individuals may order copies of their own vital records or the records of close family members.