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 Utah laws governing public records?
Utah’s public records law is the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act, which grants the public the right to access all public records held by government agencies in the state. The law defines public records as any documents created by state and local government bodies, except those that contain private information, medical information, or those that if released present a security risk.
The Act declares that government agencies have a ten-day time limit to respond to a public records request and that requesters are not obligated to state their intent for accessing a record.
The Utah Government Records Access and Management Act: Utah code Title 63G Chapter 2
Examples of Utah Public Records
Utah public records include, but are not limited to:
- Court cases
- Birth certificates (100 years after filing date)
- Death certificates (50 years after filing date)
- Marriage records (75 years after filing date)
- Divorce records (75 years after filing date)
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Utah:
- Birth certificates (less than 100 years after filing date)
- Death certificates (less than 50 years after filing date)
- Marriage records (less than 75 years after filing date)
- Divorce records (less than 75 years after filing date)
- Criminal 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 Utah public records?
- Utah Division of Corporations and Commercial Code: Business Search – Search a Utah business to receive detailed information on the business, such as its formation date and current status, along with any public filings made by the business.
- Utah Courts: XChange – XChange is a fee-based subscription service that can be used to lookup court records held by Utah district and justice courts. The account set-up fee is $25 and the monthly subscription fee is $30. A subscriber is allowed up to 200 searches a month without additional charges.
- Utah Courts: Appellate Docket Search – Search for Utah Supreme Court and Court of Appeals case information.
- Utah Department of Public Safety: Criminal Records – A page that explains how an individual can obtain a copy of their Utah criminal history, or expunge offenses from their record.
- Utah State Archives – The State Archives is located in Salt Lake City and maintains a vast collection of historical public records. Many records can be accessed online from the Utah State Digital Archives.
Sex Offender Information
- Utah Sex & Kidnap Offender Registry – Maintained by the Utah Department of Corrections, the state’s Sex & Kidnap Offender Registry can be searched by anyone. Users can perform a name, area, city, or non-compliant offenders search.
- Utah Office Vital Records and Statistics – Although they are not public records, vital records can be requested by the subject of the record, close family members, or legal representatives from the Office of Vital Records and Statistics.