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 Mississippi’s public records law?
The Mississippi Public Records Act guarantees the public the right to access public records held by government agencies at all levels in Mississippi.
Under the law, anyone can make a public records request in Mississippi without stating their purpose. Additionally, public records can used for any purpose without restriction. The law states agencies have one working day to respond to a records request unless that agency has set their own time limit on responding to requests.
Examples of Mississippi Public Records
Mississippi public records include, but are not limited to:
- Court records
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Mississippi:
- Criminal records
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates
- Marriage records
- Divorce records
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Library records
- Medical records
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Mississippi public records?
- Mississippi Secretary of State: Business Search – Search a Mississippi-based business to learn its filing date, entity type, principal address, current status, and more.
- State of Mississippi Judiciary: Mississippi Electronic Courts – Choose from a long list of participating Mississippi county courts to search its database of case information and other court records. Registration is required in order to use the service and the annual fee is $10. There’s a $0.20 per-page fee for accessing documents found using the search.
- State of Mississippi Judiciary: Directory – A comprehensive directory with the contact information of all Mississippi courts, judicial departments and offices, including the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and District Courts.
- Mississippi Bureau of Investigation: Authorization to Release Background Information – Mississippi does not have an online search tool for criminal history information, so in order perform a criminal background check in the state, individuals must submit this completed form along with a payment of $32 to the MS BOI. Those seeking criminal history information of another individual will need that person’s signed consent on the form.
- Mississippi Department of Archives and History – This agency presides over two state museums as well as an extensive collection of historical public records. Additionally, thousands of historical records and photographs are available in the Digital Archives.
Sex Offender Information
- Mississippi Sex Offender Registry – Maintained by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, the MS Sex Offender registry is available online and can be searched by anyone. Users may conduct a name, city, or area search.
- Mississippi State Department of Health: Vital Records – Mississippi is strict about vital records, and only authorized persons or those that can prove a legitimate interest or claim will be issued certified copies of birth, death, marriage, or divorce records in the state. However, those that are authorized to do so may order vital records through this state agency.