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 are the Nevada laws governing public records?
Chapter 239 of the Nevada Revised Statutes is Nevada’s public records law, which applies to “all public books and public records of a government entity, the contents of which are not otherwise declared by law to be confidential.”
The law declares that public records held by any local or state governmental agency must be open for viewing or copying by members of the general public during office hours. Requesters of public records in Nevada are not required to give their name or any other personal information when requesting a record and they do not have to state a reason for wanting to view or copy the record.
Nevada’s public records law mandates that government bodies are given a five-day time limit to respond to a written public records request.
Examples of Nevada Public Records
Nevada public records include, but are not limited to:
- Conviction records
- Court cases
- Marriage records
- Divorce records
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Nevada:
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates
- Criminal record information other than conviction records
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Library information
- Medical records
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Nevada public records?
- Nevada Business Search – Search a Nevada business by name or entity number to learn its formation date, entity type, current status, and additional information. Businesses that are no longer active are also included in the database.
- Nevada Judiciary: Find a Case – Search the database of Nevada appellate court records, including records of the Supreme Court of Nevada and Nevada Court of Appeals. Search options include a case search and a participant search.
- Nevada Judiciary Official Website – The main page of the website includes a “Find A Court” tool. Making a direct request to the court clerk of the court where a case originated is one of the most effective means of accessing specific case information.
- State of Nevada: Records, Communications, and Compliance Division – As Nevada does not provide an official online search tool for criminal history information, individuals must complete and submit a Request for Criminal History form to the Department of Public Safety in order to request Nevada criminal record information.
- Nevada State Library and Archives – Located in Carson City, the State Library and Archives is a large collection of historical, legal, and legislative records dating back to the mid 19th century.
Sex Offender Information
- Nevada Sex Offender Registry – The registry is maintained by the Nevada Department of Public Safety and can be searched by members of the general public. Search options include name search, vehicle search, and geographical search.
- Nevada Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Vital Statistics – The Office of Vital Statistics maintains the state’s database of birth and death certificates, although marriage and divorce records are held in individual county records offices.
As the Office of Vital Statistics is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is recommended that individuals order certificates online from the 3rd-party vendor VitalChek.