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 New Mexico laws governing public records?
New Mexico’s main public records law is known as the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). The law is similar to the FOIA except it pertains to state and local government agencies.
The IPRA guarantees members of the general public open access to public records held by government agencies and states that people can take legal action if they are denied the right to access a public record. The New Mexico Attorney General and district attorneys have the statutory authority to enforce the IPRA.
Examples of New Mexico Public Records
New Mexico public records include, but are not limited to:
- Partial criminal history record information
- Inmate information
- Birth certificates (100 years after the date of birth)
- Death certificates (50 years after the date of death)
- Court cases
- Marriage records
- Divorce records
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in New Mexico:
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Library information
- Birth certificates (less than 100 years old)
- Death certificates (less than 50 years old)
- Medical records
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access New Mexico public records?
- NM Secretary of State: Corporations and Business Services: Business Search – Search a New Mexico business by name or ID number to learn its formation date, current standing, current status, and more.
- NM Corporations and Business Services: Search Public Filings – Search public filings made by New Mexico businesses or request copies of certificates.
- New Mexico Courts: Case Lookup – Search court case records maintained by the New Mexico Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, District Courts, Municipal Courts, and Magistrate Courts.
- New Mexico Courts: Find a Court – In order to view detailed information about a court case in New Mexico, one must contact the court directly and make a record request to the court clerk. This page includes the contact information of every New Mexico court.
- New Mexico Department of Public Safety: Fingerprinting and Background Checks – New Mexico does not offer an official search tool for state criminal history information, therefore, one must follow one of the procedures outlined on this page to access criminal records in the state.
- New Mexico Offender Search – Search the state database of prison inmates.
- New Mexico State Records Center and Archives – Located in Santa Fe, the State Records Center and Archives maintains a vast collection of historical public records dating back centuries.
Sex Offender Information
- New Mexico Sex Offender Registry – The NM Department of Public Safety maintains the state’s sex offender registry and makes it available online to be searched by members of the general public. Users can search by name, area, city, internet name/email address, or phone number.
- New Mexico Vital Records and Health Statistics – Although most types of vital records are not public in New Jersey, subjects of records and family members can order certified copies of birth and death certificates from the Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics.