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 Wyoming laws governing public records?
The Wyoming Sunshine Law is a set of laws that grant the public access to records held by local and state government bodies. Wyoming’s public records law defines public records as any document in any form created by a government agency while dealing with the public.
The Wyoming Sunshine Law declares that anyone may request public records in the state without stating the reason they wish to access the record. However, unlike other state FOIA laws, no time limit is specified that agencies must follow upon receiving a public records request.
Examples of Wyoming Public Records
Wyoming public records include, but are not limited to:
- Birth certificates (100 years after filing date)
- Death certificates (50 years after filing date)
- Court cases
- Marriage records (50 years after filing date)
- Divorce records (50 years after filing date)
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Wyoming:
- Birth certificates (less than 100 years old)
- Death certificates (less than 50 years old)
- Marriage records (less than 50 years old)
- Death records (less than 50 years old)
- 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 Wyoming public records?
- Wyoming Secretary of State: Business Filings Search – Search a Wyoming business to learn its formation date, current standing, entity type, principal address, and more.
- Wyoming Supreme Court Clerk’s Office: Case Search – Search for Wyoming Supreme Court records by case number or title. There are also ‘issue search’ and ‘participant search’ options.
- Wyoming Judicial Branch: District Court Locations – Location and contact information for all Wyoming district courts. In order to access detailed information on a specific case, one must make a records request to the court clerk of the court where the case originated.
- Wyoming Judicial Branch: Circuit Court Locations – A directory with the contact information of every Wyoming circuit court.
- Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation: Criminal History Checks – Compared to other states, accessing criminal history information is a bit difficult in Wyoming. Individuals cannot access the criminal records of others, and to obtain their own Wyoming criminal record, they must submit an official set of fingerprints to the state DCI. This FAQ page explains in detail how one may obtain a copy of their own Wyoming criminal history record.
- Wyoming State Archives – Located in the state capital Cheyenne, the State Archives maintains an extensive collection of historical public records dating back centuries. Additionally, they hold a large number of photographs and other media. Many records can be accessed online.
Sex Offender Information
- Wyoming Sex Offender Registry – The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation maintains the state sex offender registry, which is searchable by members of the general public. Users can search by name, area, city, phone number, or internet name/email address.
- Wyoming Department of Health: Vital Statistics Services – Although the vital records are not public records in the state, individuals may order certified copies of their own records, or the records of close family members, through Vital Statistics Services.