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 Connecticut laws governing public records?
The Connecticut Freedom of Information Act of 1975 is Connecticut’s public records law. The law declares the right of the public to access the records of governmental bodies in Connecticut as long as they aren’t protected by a legal exemption.
Citizens are not required to state a purpose when making a public records request and agencies have a four-day time limit to respond to a request. The Connecticut FOIA places no restrictions on the use of public records.
Examples of Connecticut Public Records
Connecticut public records include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal records
- Birth certificates (100 years after filing date)
- Death certificates
- Court cases
- Marriage records
- Divorce records
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Connecticut:
- Birth certificates (less than 100 years old)
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Library records
- Medical records
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Connecticut public records?
- Connecticut Secretary of State: Business Registry Search – Search a Connecticut business by name, ID, or filing number to learn its formation date, type, principal address, and more.
- Connecticut Judicial Branch: Case Look-Up – Search for Supreme Court, Appellate Court, civil, criminal, and small claims court records. The search tool allows users to search by party name, attorney, docket number, and more and is free to use.
- Connecticut Judicial Branch: Directories – A page providing links with the contact information of every Connecticut court and judicial agency. If a court record cannot be found online, making a records request to the court clerk of the court where the case originated is the best way to access detailed case information.
- Connecticut State Division of Criminal Justice: Criminal Records – Although Connecticut does not have an official search tool for criminal history information, this page provides information on how to request a copy of one’s own criminal record or the criminal record of another person.
- Connecticut State Library: State Archives – Located in Hartford, the Connecticut State Archives possesses over 48,000 cubic feet of historical public records. Many collections are accessible in digital form.
Sex Offender Information
- Connecticut Sex Offender Registry – The Connecticut Sex Offender Registry is maintained by the Connecticut State Police, which makes the registry available to be searched by members of the general public. Users can search by name, area, city, phone number, or internet name/email address.
- Connecticut State Department of Public Health: State Vital Records Office – The Vital Records Office maintains registries for births, deaths, and marriages from 1897 onwards. Individuals may order certified copies of vital records through the agency.