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 Oklahoma’s public records law?
The Oklahoma Open Records Act entitles the public the right to access public records held by governmental bodies in the state. The series of laws covers all documents, in any form, held or produced by a public body in the state, including records documenting the transfer of public funds.
The law allows anyone to make a public records request in the state without submitting a statement of purpose. There is no limit on the use of public records, yet fees will be applied if their are to be used for commercial purposes.
Examples of Oklahoma Public Records
Oklahoma public records include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal records
- Court cases
- Marriage records
- Divorce records
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Oklahoma:
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Library records
- Medical records
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates
- Media market research
- Real estate appraisals
- Computer programs
- Sex offender registration files
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Oklahoma public records?
- Oklahoma Secretary of State: Business Records Department – Search an Oklahoma business entity by name to learn key information including its formation date, entity type, current status. You can also obtain copies of any filings made with the Secretary of State.
- Oklahoma State Courts Network – Search a database of court records from all Oklahoma courts by case number or party. The database includes Oklahoma Supreme Court, Criminal Appeals, Civil Appeals, and District Court records.
- Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation: CHIRP (Criminal History Information Request Portal) – Request the Oklahoma criminal record of anyone with a first name, last name, and date of birth. Each name-based background check costs $15.
- Oklahoma Department of Libraries: Archives and Records – Together, the Oklahoma State Archives and Records Management maintain a collection of over 65,000 cubic feet of records, including historical government records, genealogical records, territorial survey records, and maps. Many records can be found online as part of the online digital collection.
Sex Offender Information
- Oklahoma Sex & Violent Offender Registry – Search the online database for Level 1,2, and 3 violent and sex offenders residing in Oklahoma. The site also includes lists of delinquent and transient offenders.
- Oklahoma Department of Health: Birth and Death Certificates – Although they are not public records in Oklahoma, authorized persons can order certified copies of birth and death certificates through this state agency, or online from the approved 3rd vendor VitalChek. For marriage and divorce records, individuals must contact the court clerk in the county where the event occurred.