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 Delaware laws governing public records?
The Delaware Freedom of Information Act of 1977 is a set of laws concerning public records in the state. They define public records as information of any kind that is produced or maintained by a public body.
The laws allow any citizen of the State of Delaware to make a public records request without giving a specific reason. Additionally, there are no limits placed on the use of public records in the state.
Examples of Delaware Public Records
Delaware public records include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal records
- Birth certificates
- 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 Delaware:
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Current police investigations
- Labor negotiation records
- Library records
- Military discharge records
- Medical records
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Delaware public records?
- Delaware Division of Corporations: Delaware Entity Search – Search Delaware businesses to learn their formation date, entity kind, file number, current status, and additional information.
- CourtConnect: State of Delaware Courts Judicial Case Database – A free-to-use search tool provided by the Delaware State Courts that individuals can use to search court records by person or business name, case type, case ID, and more.
- PACER: Delaware District Court Search – Search Delaware District Court civil and criminal records. Requires PACER registration to use.
- Delaware Courts: Contact Our Courts – Contact information for all Delaware Superior Courts. The best way to access a specific court record is by making a records request to the court clerk of the court where the case originated.
- Delaware State Police: Obtaining a Certified Delaware Criminal History – In order to obtain a criminal history background check in Delaware, individuals must finish and submit a form, provide their fingerprints, and present a valid driver’s license or state ID.
- Delaware Police Departments Directory – The best way of obtaining criminal history information is by making an in-person request at a local police department. This link includes the contact information of every police department in the state.
- Delaware Public Archives – Located in Dover, the Delaware Public Archives maintains a vast collection of historical, genealogical, and legislative records, as well as a large number of photographs and other media.
Sex Offender Information
- Delaware Sex Offender Central Registry – Maintained by the Delaware State Police, State Bureau of Identification, the Delaware Sex Offender Registry can be searched by members of the general public. Users can search by name, address, or online name/email address.
- The Delaware Division of Public Health: Office of Vital Statistics – Individuals can order birth, death, marriage, and death certifications in-person or by mail through the Office of Vital Statistics. Additionally, certificates can be ordered online by the 3rd party vendors listed on the site.