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 Vermont’s public records law?
The Vermont Public Records Law guarantees the public the right to access public records held by government agencies at all levels in the state. The law defines public records as all documents, regardless of form, that relate to the business of a public body.
Under the law, anyone can request public records without expressing a statement of purpose, and there are no restrictions on the use of public records in Vermont. If a government agency decides that a requested record in their possession is exempt from public viewing, it has a two-day time limit to issue a record denial.
Examples of Vermont Public Records
Vermont public records include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal record information
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates
- Court case information
- Marriage records
- Divorce records
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Vermont:
- Criminal investigation records
- Historical/archaeological site locations
- Personnel files
- Library records
- Medical records
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Vermont public records?
- Vermont Secretary of State: Business Search – Lookup a Vermont business by name, ID, or filing number to learn key information about it, including its initial filing date, business type, principal address, and current status.
- Vermont Courts Online – A subscription-based online service provided by the Vermont Judiciary that can be used to lookup detailed case information for the Civil Divisions of the Vermont Superior Courts. There is an activation fee of $12.50 that covers five docket lookups.
- Vermont Judiciary: Requests for Access to Court Records – Information on how to request court records from your local court clerk and a selection of appeal and court record request forms in downloadable PDF format.
- Vermont Criminal Conviction Record Internet Service (VCCRIS) – A fee-based online tool that the public can use to look up the Vermont conviction history record of anyone. A single request is $30 and is non-refundable, even if the search yields a “record not found” result.
- State of Vermont Agency of Administration: Public Information, Reports, and Meetings – Directories of various types of public records, press releases, and public records requests that are available for public viewing.
- Vermont State Archives & Records Administration – Based in Montpelier, the Vermont State Archives presides over a large collection of historical public records, manuscript collections, photographs, and audiovisual material. Many records are available to view online as part of the digital state archives known as VT Re•tain.
Sex Offender Information
- Vermont Crime Information Center: Sex Offender Registry – Vermont’s sex offender registry is available online to be searched by members of the general public. Users can search by name or area. You can also sign up for email alerts that notify you if a registered offender has moved into a certain area.
- Vermont Department of Health: Vital Records & Population Data – Vermont is an open state concerning vital records, and copies of most types of records, including birth and death certifications, and divorce and marriage records, can be ordered through the state’s Vital Records Office.