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 Kansas’ public records law?
The Kansas Open Records Act declares the public’s right to access public records held by state and local government agencies. The law covers any records created or maintained by public agencies related to government business.
Under the law, anyone can request public records without stating their intent. However, the use of name and address lists is barred for most commercial purposes. Government agencies are given a three-day time limit to respond to a records request.
Examples of Kansas Public Records
Kansas public records include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal records
- Court records
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Kansas:
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates
- Marriage records
- Divorce records
- Library records
- Medical records
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Kansas public records?
- Kansas Secretary of State: Business Entity Search Station – Search a Kansas business to access key information such as its formation date, entity type, principal address, and current status. There are also charitable organizations and trademark search options.
- Kansas District Court Public Access Portal – A free online search tool for Kansas district court records. Individuals may also use the service to make payments towards fines and other legally mandated financial obligations.
- Kansas Judicial Branch: Supreme Court Dockets – A database of Kansas Supreme Court dockets in PDF form organized by year.
- Kansas Judicial Branch: District Courts – A directory with the contact information of every Kansas district court. When a court record cannot be found online, one should contact the court clerk of the court where the case was held in order to make a public records request.
- Kansas.gov: Criminal History Record Search – Criminal history information is public in Kansas and individuals may search for the criminal record of anyone on file using this search tool. However, using the search requires a KanAccess account, which costs $20.
- Kansas Historical Society: State Archives – Located in Topeka, the Kansas State Archives maintains an extensive collection of historic public records, audiovisual materials, newspapers, and manuscripts. A large number of collections are available online in digital form for research purposes.
Sex Offender Information
- Kansas Public Offender Registry – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation maintains the state’s sex offender registry, which is available online to be searched by members of the general public. Users can search the database by name, city, area, or internet name/email address.
- Kansas Department Of Health and the Environment: Office of Vital Statistics – Unlike many other states, vital records are not public records in Kansas, and there’s no designated time limit for when they become public records. However, authorized persons, including the subject(s) of the record, immediate family members, and legal representatives, may still order certified copies of records from this state agency.