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 Hawaii laws governing public records?
Hawaii’s public records law is the Hawaii Uniform Information Practices Act, which was enacted in 1975 and grants the public access to records produced by governmental bodies in the state. The law defines public records as all materials maintained by government offices, regardless of their form. Certain records are exempt from the law, including the draft working papers of legislative committees and records with individuals’ private information.
Under the law, anyone can make a public records request without a statement of intent, and an agency has ten days to respond to a request.
Examples of Hawaii Public Records
Hawaii public records include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal records
- Court cases
- Birth certificates (75 years after filing date)
- Death certificates (75 years after filing date)
- Marriage records (75 years after filing date)
- Divorce records
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Hawaii:
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Library records
- Medical records
- Birth certificates (less than 75 years after filing date)
- Death certificates (less than 75 years after filing date)
- Marriage records (less than 75 years after filing date)
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Hawaii public records?
- Hawaii.gov: Search for Businesses & Buy Documents – Search a Hawaii business to learn its formation date, entity type, principal address, and current status. Individuals can also purchase copies of documents filed with the state government, such as Certificates of Good Standing.
- eCourt Kokua – A fee-based subscription service that can be used to search Hawaii Appellate, District, Circuit, Family, Land, and Tax Appeal Court case records. Individual documents can be purchased for $3 a document, while subscribers can pay $500 a year for unlimited access to court records.
- Hoohiki – Search Family Court civil case records.
- Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center: eCrim – An online search tool that allows users to look up the conviction records and other criminal history information of anyone in the state database. One search costs $5 and purchasing a copy of a criminal record costs $10.
- Hawaii State Archives – Located in Honolulu, the Hawaii State Archives manages a large collection of historical public records and media dating back to the Kingdom era. Additionally, many collections are available online in digital form.
Sex Offender Information
- Hawaii Sex Offender Registry – Maintained by the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center, the Hawaii Sex Offender Registry is open to be searched by members of the general public. Users can perform a name-based or area search.
- State of Hawaii, Department of Health: Vital Records Home – Authorized individuals can order certified copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates from this state government agency.