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 Indiana’s public records law?
The Indiana Access to Public Records Act guarantees the public the right to access public records held by state and local government agencies. However, certain records are exempt from the law, including academic research, medical records, trade secrets, and anything that the Indiana Supreme Court declares exempt.
According to the Indiana statute, anyone can request public records in the state without declaring a statement of purpose. However, records are not to be used for commercial purposes other than as a news item, non-profit organization material, or academic research. Government agencies are given a seven-day time limit to respond to a written public records request.
Examples of Indiana Public Records
Indiana public records include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal records
- Birth certificates (75 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 Indiana:
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Birth certificates (less than 75 years after filing date)
- Library records
- Medical records
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Indiana public records?
- Indiana Secretary of State: Business Search – Search an Indiana business to receive detailed information about it, including its creation date, entity type, jurisdiction of formation, principal address, and current status.
- Indiana Judicial Branch: Case Search (beta) – Search a database of non-confidential Indiana court records by case number, party name, or attorney. The search tool is free to use.
- Directory of Courts & Clerks in Indiana – A directory with the contact information of every Indiana court and court clerk. If the information on a specific court case cannot be found using the Case Search linked above, the next step is to contact the court clerk of the court where the case originated in order to make a public records request.
- Indiana State Police: Criminal History Services – A page with detailed information about the various criminal background checks that individuals may conduct in Indiana, along with explanations on how to request a name-based or fingerprint-based criminal background check in the state.
- The Indiana Archives and Records Administration: Indiana State Archives – Located in Indianapolis, the Indiana State Archives presides over a collection of over 110,000 cubic feet of historical public records, items, and media. Additionally, many collections are available online in digital form.
Sex Offender Information
- Indiana Sex and Violent Offender Registry – Maintained by the Indiana Department of Correction, the Indiana Sex and Violent Offender Registry is available online and can be searched by anyone. Users can search the registry by name, city, area, or internet name, email address.
- Indiana Department of Health: Division of Vital Records – Authorized persons may order certified copies of birth and death certificates and marriage records from the Division of Vital Records. Additionally, a local court clerk’s office is another source of marriage and divorce records.