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 Kentucky’s public records law?
The Kentucky Open Records Act grants the public the right to access public records held by state and local government agencies. The law states that anyone, not just Kansas citizens, has the right to request public records without stating their intended use of the record. However, unlike in other states, the use of public records for commercial purposes is not allowed.
The Kentucky Open Records Act mandates a three-day time limit for government bodies to respond to a public records request.
Examples of Kentucky Public Records
Kentucky public records include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal records
- Death certificates
- Court case records
- Marriage records
- Divorce records
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Kentucky:
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Birth certificates
- Library records
- Medical records
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Kentucky public records?
- Kentucky Secretary of State: Business Filings & Records Online Services – The page includes a business search, which can be used to access information about a Kentucky business, including its formation date, principal address, standing, and status.
- Kentucky Court of Justice: Case Search – Search for Kentucky court records by party/business, citation, or case number. The search is free to use.
- Kentucky Court of Justice: Judicial Directory – A directory with the contact information of every Kentucky court, including circuit courts, district courts, and the Kentucky Supreme Court. If a court record cannot be accessed online, making a public records request to the court clerk of the court where the case originated is the appropriate next step.
- Kentucky Court of Justice: Criminal Record Request – Request the criminal history information of anyone using this service. In order to receive the results electronically, one must become a registered user.
- Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives: Kentucky State Archives – The Kentucky State Archives is located in Frankfort and holds an extensive collection of historical public records and audiovisual materials. Many collections are available online as part of the Kentucky State Digital Archives.
Sex Offender Information
- Kentucky Sex Offender Registry – Maintained by the Kentucky State Police, the Kentucky Sex Offender Registry is available online to be searched by members of the general public. Users can search the registry by name, city, or area.
- Kentucky Cabinet for Health: Office of Vital Statistics – Authorized persons may order certified copies of vital records through the Office of Vital Statistics. Birth certificates are not public records, but there are no restrictions on the ordering of death, marriage, and divorce records. However, online orders can only be done through the approved third-party vendor VitalChek.