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 Idaho’s public records law?
The Idaho Public Records Act of 1990 guarantees the public the right of access to records held by state and local government agencies that do not fall under special exemptions. The law covers all state and local government agencies other than the state militia.
Under the law, anyone can make a public records request without expressing a statement of purpose, and the sole restriction on public records is the creation of phoning or mailing lists. Government agencies have a three-day time limit to respond to a written public records request.
Examples of Idaho Public Records
Idaho public records include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal records
- Court records
- Birth certificates (100 years after filing date)
- Death certificates (50 years after filing date)
- Marriage records (50 years after filing date)
- Divorce records
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Idaho:
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Library records
- Medical records
- Birth certificates (less than 100 years after filing date)
- Death certificates (less than 50 years after filing date)
- Marriage records (less than 50 years after filing date)
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Idaho public records?
- Idaho Secretary of State: Business Search – Search an Idaho business by name or file number to learn its formation date, principal address, current status, where the business was formed, and further information.
- Idaho Courts: iCourt Portal – Search a database of court case information from all Idaho county courts. The search tool is free to use and users can search by name or record number.
- Idaho Supreme Court: Court Records Search – The Supreme Court records search is not yet operational but is listed as “coming soon”.
- State of Idaho: County Courthouse Directory – If specific court case information cannot be found online, the next step is to contact the court clerk of the court where the case originated directly and make a public records request. This PDF file contains the full contact information of every Idaho county court.
- Idaho Criminal History Unit: Background Checks – Information on how to obtain a criminal background check in Idaho, along with links to applications and a directory of fingerprinting locations.
- Idaho State Archives – The Idaho State Archives is located in Boise and presides over an extensive collection of historical public records, including legislative and genealogical records. Many collections have been digitized and can be viewed online.
Sex Offender Information
- Idaho Sex Offender Registry – Maintained by the Idaho State Police, the Sex Offender Registry is available online and can be searched by anyone. Users can search by name, city, area, or internet name/email address.
- Idaho Department of Health and Welfare: Idaho Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics – While most Idaho vital records are not public, authorized individuals can order certified copies of birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates from this state agency.