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New York Public Records

In the state of New York, public records fall into two main categories. The first category comprises personal public records, which document significant life events such as births, deaths, divorces, and marriages. The second category consists of government records, which are accessible to the general public and encompass items like land records, voter registration information, property tax records, as well as court and jail inmate records. The Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), a federal legislation, plays a pivotal role in granting public access to the majority of these records and ensures their availability from government agencies. However, navigating the process of obtaining these documents can be daunting due to their sheer abundance. The original public records law in New York was enacted in 1974, and it has undergone substantial revisions over the years. Notably, it defines ‘records’ in a broad and comprehensive manner.

How to Request New York Public Records?

Requesting public records from New York involves a process guided by the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

Table of Contents

Here's a general guide on how to go about it:

Where to Find Public Records in New York

Different New York agencies manage various types of records. Here’s where you can typically find them:

Vital Records (Birth, Death, Marriage, Divorce):

New York State Vital Records can be contacted via email at [email protected] or by telephone at 855-322-1022 for queries. Records application details are available here.

Property Records:

The Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS) allows you to search property records for Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, and Brooklyn from 1966 to the present. Assistance is available via the ACRIS Help Line at (212) 487-6300. More information can be found here.

Business Records:

Copies of documents filed with the Division of Corporations at the NYS Department of State can be obtained online or by submitting a written request. For online requests and further details, visit here.

Court Records:

Requests for court records should be made directly to the Clerk of the Court or the County Clerk that holds the records. Criminal records are available from the court system. For more information, visit NY CourtHelp.

Driving Records:

Driving records (abstracts) can be ordered online through MyDMV. The fee for this service is $7. More information is available here.

Professional Licenses

The Office of the Professions provides a secure, primary source for license verification, which is updated daily. Certification of licensure is available for a fee. Further details can be found here.

State Archives:

The New York State Archives is responsible for preserving and making available historical records of the state government. For specific information regarding access to these records, you can contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926 or via email at [email protected]. More details are available on their website.

Are New York Public Records Available Online?

Certainly! Many public records in New York are accessible online, though the availability varies by record type and managing agency. Vital records such as birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates can be requested online, but the actual records are generally not viewable online due to privacy regulations. 

Property records for Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, and Brooklyn from 1966 onwards can be searched through the Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS). For business records, documents filed with the Division of Corporations at the New York State Department of State can be ordered online, especially for entities formed or authorized in New York after July 30, 1990. 

Court records access is more variable; some basic information may be online, but more detailed records usually require requests to specific courts. New York’s MyDMV service allows individuals to order and access their driving records online. Professional licenses can be verified through the Office of the Professions’ online system. 

Lastly, historical records access online is mixed; while the New York State Archives offers some digitized records, other documents might need an in-person visit or a direct request for access. For the most up-to-date information on accessing these records, it is advisable to consult the respective agency’s website or contact them directly.

Which records are public in New York

Which records are not public in New York

In New York, certain records are exempt from public access, typically to protect privacy, security, and effective government operation. These include:

New York Background Checks

New York background checks are investigations into an individual’s history, typically conducted for employment, rental, or other verification purposes. These checks can reveal various types of information depending on the scope and purpose of the check. Here’s what can be included in a New York background check report:

What Can Be Included In a Background Check Report?

Criminal Records

Records of arrests, convictions, and incarcerations. In New York, there are restrictions on how employers can use this information.

Employment History

Verification of past employment, including positions held, duration of employment, and reasons for leaving.

Education Verification

Confirmation of educational credentials, such as degrees and certifications obtained from educational institutions.

Credit History

Credit reports showing debt, payment history, bankruptcies, and financial stability. Usage is regulated under both federal and state laws.

Driving Records

Information about driving history, including license suspensions, traffic violations, and DUI records.

Civil Records

Details of involvement in civil litigation, such as lawsuits, judgments, liens, and bankruptcies.

Professional Licenses

Verification of any professional licenses held, including status, disciplinary actions, and expiration dates.

Reference Checks

Information gathered from personal or professional references.

Drug Testing Results

Information about drug use, typically for safety-sensitive positions.

Social Media Profiles

Insights into character and behavior from publicly available online profiles and postings, subject to legal restrictions.

Sex Offender Registry Information

Details if the individual is listed on state or national sex offender registries.

Terrorist Watchlist Check

To identify any potential security threats.

New York Court Records

Overview of the New York court system and its Structure:

Here’s an overview of the New York Court System, organized into various levels and types:

  • Federal Courts: These courts operate under federal law. They handle cases involving federal law, constitutional issues, disputes between states or foreign parties, and more. These include district courts, circuit courts of appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court for cases appealed beyond the state level.
  • State Court of Appeals: This is New York’s highest court. It primarily hears appeals from the Appellate Divisions of the Supreme Court. It has the final judicial say within the state legal system.
  • State Supreme Court: Despite its name, it’s not the highest but a trial-level court. It deals with civil matters, including cases involving more significant sums of money, divorce, and equity cases. Criminal jurisdiction varies depending on the county.
  • Trial Courts: Also known as lower courts, they handle the majority of cases first. These courts include County Courts, Family Courts, Surrogate’s Courts, and others. They deal with a wide range of matters, from lesser criminal cases to family law.
  • Courts in New York City: Includes the New York City Criminal Court and the New York City Civil Court. The Criminal Court handles misdemeanors and lesser offenses. The Civil Court deals with civil cases with lower amounts of money at stake.
  • Courts of Limited Jurisdiction: These courts have specific, limited powers. These include Town and Village Courts, which handle minor civil and criminal matters. They also encompass specialty courts like Drug Courts, Housing Courts, and others focusing on particular types of cases.

Types of New York Court Records

Civil Court Records​

Criminal Court

Family Court Records​

Probate Court Records​

Traffic Court Records​

Property Lien Records

Bankruptcy Records

Restrictions, Limitations, and Confidentiality

New York court records, while largely public, are subject to various restrictions, limitations, and confidentiality requirements, which are essential for protecting privacy and ensuring the integrity of the judicial process.

What do these records contain

New York Public Vital Records

Marriage and Divorce Records: In New York, the handling of marriage and divorce records involves different processes and entities. Marriage licenses are issued by the town or city clerk where the marriage is to take place, and after the ceremony, the officiant files the license with the same office. To obtain copies of these records, one must approach the clerk’s office where the license was issued. In the case of New York City, the Marriage Bureau handles these records. Divorce records, on the other hand, are issued by the New York State Supreme Court. To obtain a certified copy of a divorce decree, one must request it from the court where the divorce was granted. For divorces in New York City, this would be the respective county Supreme Court. 

Birth and Death Records: In New York, birth and death records are vital documents managed by specific government offices. Birth records are typically filed with the local registrar’s office in the city or town where the birth occurred and are also maintained by the New York State Department of Health. These records are accessible for various purposes, including personal identification and genealogical research. Death records, similarly, are filed with the local registrar in the municipality where the death occurred and are also maintained by the State Department of Health. These records are crucial for legal, estate, and genealogy purposes. Death records are generally available to the public, but certified copies might only be available to close family members or those who have a documented lawful right or claim.

New York Public Criminal Records

Definition and Types of Criminal Records in New York

In New York, criminal records are official documents detailing an individual’s criminal history, compiled and maintained by law enforcement agencies. These records typically include information on arrests, charges, court proceedings, and outcomes, such as convictions, acquittals, or dismissals. In New York, criminal records, also known as rap sheets, typically include detailed information about an individual’s interactions with the criminal justice system. The information contained in these records generally includes:

  • Personal Identification: Full name, aliases, date of birth, and physical descriptors like height, weight, eye and hair color, as well as fingerprints and photographs.
  • Arrest Data: Details of arrests including date, location, the arresting agency, and the charges filed.
  • Court Information: Details about court proceedings related to the criminal charges, including the name of the court, case numbers, dates of hearings, charges, plea information, and the outcome of the trial (e.g., conviction, acquittal, dismissal).
  • Sentencing Information: If convicted, the record will include details of the sentence, such as jail or prison time, probation, fines, or community service.
  • Incarceration Records: Information about any time spent in jail or prison, including dates of incarceration and release.
  • Parole or Probation Details: If applicable, information about parole or probation, including terms and duration.
  • Sealed Records: In certain circumstances, criminal records may be sealed, meaning they are not publicly accessible. However, sealed records may still exist and can be accessed under specific legal conditions.

Police Records and Reports

In New York, police records and reports encompass a variety of documents produced by law enforcement agencies. These include incident reports, arrest records, investigation reports, and accident reports. Such records provide detailed accounts of incidents and law enforcement responses, including descriptions of events, parties involved, and any actions taken by the police. Access to these records can vary; some are public, while others might be restricted due to privacy concerns or ongoing investigations.

Booking Records and Reports

Booking records in New York document the process of a suspect being taken into custody by police. These records typically include the suspect's personal information, photographs (mugshots), fingerprints, details of the alleged crime, and the time and location of the arrest. Booking reports offer a comprehensive view of an individual's entry into the criminal justice system following an arrest.

DUI Records

DUI (Driving Under the Influence) records in New York contain information about individuals arrested and/or convicted for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These records detail the offense, including blood alcohol content levels, location and time of the offense, arrest records, court proceedings, and any resulting convictions or penalties.

Felony and Misdemeanor Records

Felony and misdemeanor records in New York detail criminal offenses categorized based on their severity. Felonies are more serious crimes, such as violent crimes or major thefts, while misdemeanors are lesser offenses, like petty theft or minor assault. These records encompass arrest data, court proceedings, verdicts, and sentences.

Parole Records

Parole records in New York document the release of prisoners before the completion of their sentence under specified conditions. These records track the parolee's compliance with parole conditions, including meetings with parole officers, drug testing results, and any reintegration programs or employment.

Probation Records

Probation records in New York detail the supervision of individuals convicted of crimes but not sentenced to jail or prison. These records monitor the individual's adherence to probation terms, such as regular check-ins with a probation officer, attendance in counseling or community service, and avoidance of further legal trouble.

Warrant Search

A warrant search in New York involves checking for outstanding warrants issued by courts. Warrants are orders for law enforcement to arrest an individual, conduct a search, or perform some other action. Public access to warrant information can vary depending on the nature of the warrant and privacy considerations.

Inmate And Jail Records

Inmate and jail records in New York provide information about individuals incarcerated in county jails or state prisons. These records include personal information about the inmates, details of the offense, sentencing information, incarceration dates, and details regarding parole or release. Access to these records helps in tracking the status and location of inmates within the correctional system.

What you can find

In New York, inmate and jail records contain detailed information about individuals incarcerated in the state’s correctional facilities. These records typically include:

  • Personal Information: Details such as the inmate’s name, date of birth, physical descriptions, and sometimes photographs.
  • Incarceration Details: Information on the date and location of incarceration, inmate ID number, and the facility where the inmate is being held.
  • Offense Information: Specifics about the crime for which the inmate was convicted, including the type of offense, court of conviction, and case number.
  • Sentence Information: Details about the sentence imposed, such as the length of the sentence, any fines or restitution, and the projected release date.
  • Custody Status: Information about the inmate’s current custody status, which can include security level, housing assignments within the facility, and any transfer information.
  • Parole or Probation Details: If applicable, records will include information about parole eligibility, hearing dates, or details of probation terms.
  • Disciplinary Actions: Records of any disciplinary actions taken against the inmate while in custody, including reasons for such actions.
  • Program Participation: Information about the inmate’s participation in any educational, vocational, rehabilitation, or work programs offered in the facility.

How to Conduct an Inmate Lookup in New York

Conducting an inmate lookup in New York involves several steps, and there are multiple resources available for this purpose. Here’s how you can go about it:

    • Identify the Correct Agency: Determine whether the inmate is in a state prison or a local jail. New York State prisons are managed by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), while local jails are managed by the respective county.
    • Use Online Inmate Locator Tools: 
      • For state prisons, use the DOCCS Inmate Lookup tool available on their website. This tool allows you to search for inmates using their name or Department Identification Number (DIN).
      • For local jails, visit the website of the specific county’s sheriff’s office or local jail. Many counties have online search tools where you can look up inmates by name.
  • Gather Necessary Information: Having details like the full name of the inmate, date of birth, and DIN can make the search more accurate and faster. If you know the specific facility where the inmate is held, that can also be helpful.
    • Contact the Facility Directly: If online tools don’t yield results or if you require more detailed information, you can contact the prison or jail directly. Phone numbers and contact details for state prisons are available on the DOCCS website, and for local jails on their respective websites or through the county sheriff’s office.
  • Use Third-Party Services: There are also third-party websites that offer inmate lookup services. These may require a fee and should be used with caution, ensuring the service is reputable and accurate.
  • Consider Privacy and Legal Restrictions: Remember that certain information in inmate records may be restricted to protect privacy and security. Access to an inmate’s specific location within a facility or detailed information about their offenses might be limited.
  • In-Person Requests: In some cases, you might need to visit the facility or the administrative office in person to request information, especially for older records or those not digitized.
  • Legal Assistance: If you’re having difficulty or need information for legal purposes, consider seeking assistance from a legal professional.

Can I look up mugshots in New York?

In New York, accessing mugshots can depend on various factors, including the agency holding the records and the nature of the case. Generally, mugshots taken by law enforcement as part of the arrest process are considered public records. These can often be obtained through a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the police department or sheriff’s office that made the arrest. However, in certain cases, especially those involving sensitive charges or juvenile offenders, mugshots may not be publicly available. Additionally, some jurisdictions might have specific policies limiting the release of mugshots to protect the privacy of individuals or the integrity of ongoing investigations. For specific requests, it’s advisable to contact the relevant law enforcement agency or check their policies online.

New York Arrest Records

New York arrest records are official documents that detail an individual’s arrest history within the state.

What Do These Records Contain:

New York arrest records typically encompass the following:

  • Personal Information: Including the individual’s name, date of birth, physical description, and photograph.
  • Arrest Details: Date and location of the arrest, the arresting agency, and the reason for the arrest, such as the specific charges or alleged offenses.
  • Fingerprint Information: Collected at the time of the arrest.
  • Case Information: Details about any related court cases or proceedings, including case numbers and the status of the case.
  • Outcome: Information on whether the arrest led to charges, a conviction, or if the charges were dropped or the individual was acquitted.

New York Property and Asset Records Online

To find New York property and asset records online, you can follow these steps:

  • Identify the Property’s Location: Know the county or city where the property is located, as records are typically managed at the local level.
  • Visit the County Clerk’s or Assessor’s Website: Most counties in New York have online databases where you can search for property records. These databases often allow you to search by address, owner’s name, or tax map number.
  • Use the ACRIS System for NYC: For properties in New York City (Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, and Brooklyn), use the Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS) to search property records.
  • Check for Online Mapping Tools: Some counties provide GIS mapping tools that display property boundaries and other details.
  • Search Statewide Databases: For broader searches, you can use statewide databases like the New York State Office of Real Property Services website.

Consider Subscription-Based Services: For more detailed asset searches, including personal property or business assets, subscription-based services can be used, though they may require a fee.

Unclaimed Properties in New York

In New York, unclaimed properties can be found through the Office of the New York State Comptroller. They maintain an online database where you can search for unclaimed funds that may belong to you. These funds can come from various sources like forgotten bank accounts, uncashed checks, insurance policies, or utility deposits. To search for unclaimed property, visit the New York State Comptroller’s website and use their online search tool. You can search using your name or the name of a business. If you find a property that you believe belongs to you, the website provides instructions on how to claim it. 

Driving Records

In New York, you can obtain your driving record, also known as a driving abstract, from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). These records provide a detailed history of an individual’s driving background.

Civil Driving Infractions

In New York, civil driving infractions, also known as traffic violations, are non-criminal offenses that involve breaking traffic laws. These infractions can include:

  • Speeding: Driving above the posted speed limit.
  • Failure to Stop: Not stopping at a stop sign or red light.
  • Illegal Turns: Making turns where prohibited or not following turn signals.
  • Seat Belt Violations: Not wearing a seat belt while driving.
  • Cell Phone Use: Using a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving.
  • Improper Lane Use: Not staying within the correct lane or improperly changing lanes.

New York White Pages - Access to Individuals, Addresses, and Additional Unofficial Details

Address Search ​

In New York, conducting an address search involves using various online tools and databases to find information related to a specific address. This can include property details, ownership records, tax information, and zoning data. County Assessor and Clerk’s websites are primary resources for such searches, especially for property-related information. In cities like New York City, the ACRIS system provides extensive data on properties. Additionally, GIS mapping tools offered by some counties can give detailed geographical data about the location.

People Search​

People search in New York is typically done using online directories, social media platforms, public records databases, and sometimes professional people search services. These searches can provide information like contact details, addresses, employment history, and sometimes more detailed personal data. It’s important to use these tools responsibly and ethically, respecting privacy laws and regulations. For more official purposes, like background checks, some services aggregate data from various public records, though they may require consent from the person being searched.

Can I Search By a Phone Number and Identify The Owner?

Yes, you can search by phone number to identify the owner in New York. This can be done using various online reverse phone lookup services, which allow you to enter a phone number and retrieve information about the owner, such as their name and address. Additionally, some public records databases and search engines may also provide this capability. It’s important to use these services responsibly and be aware that the accuracy of the information can vary. Also, some services may require a fee or subscription.

License Plate Lookup in New York

In New York, conducting a license plate lookup to obtain vehicle owner information is restricted primarily to authorized personnel such as law enforcement and certain qualified individuals or entities due to privacy laws. Private individuals generally cannot access someone else’s vehicle registration information through a license plate lookup. 

However, for purposes such as reporting an abandoned vehicle or a hit-and-run incident, you can provide the license plate number to the local police or DMV. If you need information for a personal civil matter, consulting with a lawyer to understand the legal avenues for obtaining such information is advisable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who and why can request public records?

In New York, the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) allows any member of the public to request public records. This includes residents of New York, citizens of other states, and even individuals or entities from outside the United States. There is no requirement to show a need or reason for accessing the information, and the law is designed to promote transparency and openness by public agencies. However, certain records may be exempt from disclosure under FOIL due to privacy concerns, security reasons, or other legal protections.

Are there fees associated with requesting public records?

Yes, there are fees associated with requesting public records in New York under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). These fees typically cover the cost of copying documents. The standard fee is 25 cents per page for photocopies, but the actual cost can vary depending on the agency and the type of record. For records provided in a format other than paper (like digital files), the fee is based on the actual cost of reproduction. It’s important to inquire about the fees with the specific agency you’re requesting records from, as they can provide detailed information on any costs involved.

Are public records Free to access?

In New York, access to public records under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) may involve some costs, although viewing records is often free. The fees are generally associated with the duplication or reproduction of the documents. For instance, photocopying paper records typically cost 25 cents per page. However, if you’re only reviewing the records without needing copies, there’s usually no charge. It’s important to clarify with the specific agency about any potential costs beforehand, as they can provide the most accurate information regarding fees for accessing their records.

What is the response time for public records requests?

In New York, under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), agencies are required to respond to public records requests within five business days. This response can be the provision of the requested records, a denial of the request, or an acknowledgment of the request with an approximate date by which the agency expects to provide a final response. If the request is complex or involves a large volume of records, the agency may need additional time to fulfill the request and will communicate this in their acknowledgment.

Can my request be rejected?

Yes, your public record request can be rejected in New York under certain circumstances. The New York Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) allows public access to government records, but there are exceptions where a request can be denied.

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