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 Nebraska’s public records law?
The Nebraska Public Records Law guarantees that anyone can access public records held or produced by government bodies at the state and local levels in the state. The law’s definition of public records is broad and includes all documents of any form held by a government body.
Under the law, anyone is entitled to make a public records request without stating their intended use for the record, and no restriction is placed on how records are used. A response to a records request should be given within four business days.
Examples of Nebraska Public Records
Nebraska 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 Nebraska:
- 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- Unpublished research and commercial data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 Nebraska public records?
- Nebraska Secretary of State: Corporate & Business Search – Learn a Nebraska business’s formation date, principal address, entity type, and current status using this search tool provided by the Nebraska Secretary of State.
- Nebraska Judicial Branch: JUSTICE Search – A fee-based search service that individuals can use to search from civil, criminal, traffic, probate, and juvenile case information provided by each of Nebraska’s 93 county and district courts. One search costs $15 and the information accessed using the search is available for 30 days.
- Nebraska Judicial Branch: Supreme Court Opinions – An index of Nebraska Supreme Court opinions indexed by date.
- Nebraska State Patrol: Criminal History Reports – Follow the four-step process outlined on this page to request the Record of Arrest and Prosecution (RAP) of anyone in the state.
- History Nebraska: Research and Reference Services – While the Nebraska History Museum is located in the city of Lincoln, many collections of historical public records, newspapers, and audiovisual materials are available online in digital form.
Sex Offender Information
- Nebraska Sex Offender Registry – The state’s sex offender registry is available online and can be searched by anyone. Users can search by name, region, or location.
- Nebraska Dept. of Health and Human Services: Vital Records – Requesting vital records in Nebraska is generally restricted to the subject(s) of the record and immediate family members. However, authorized persons can order birth, death, stillbirth, marriage, and divorce certificates by mail from the Nebraska Office of Vital Records.