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North Carolina Public Records

Government personnel in North Carolina adhere to the regulations outlined in the Public Records Act and Open Meetings Law to facilitate public access to records. Unless explicitly exempted, these laws ensure that public records in North Carolina are made accessible to the public, encompassing both preliminary and final versions of documents such as letters, memoranda, voicemails, social media posts, and other forms of public communication.

Public records are broadly defined as “all documents, including photographs, films, sound recordings, and electronic data, received in compliance with the law or in the course of conducting public agency business, as specified in North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 132.” 

The transparent availability of records in North Carolina designates it as a “sunshine law state,” as these records serve to illuminate the activities of government agencies.

In accordance with the North Carolina Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), commonly referred to as the Public Records Law, all individuals requesting information are entitled to receive the information they seek.

How to Request North Carolina Public Records

Requesting public records in North Carolina is a process governed by the North Carolina Public Records Law. Here’s a general guide on how to make a request:

Table of Contents

To request North Carolina public records, proceed with the steps below:

Where to Find Public Records in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, different types of public records are maintained by various state and local government agencies. Here’s where you can find specific types of records:

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

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) handles vital records like birth, death, marriage, and divorce records. You can request these records online, by mail, or in person through the Vital Records office.

Property Records:

Property records, including deeds, mortgages, and land records, are usually held at the County Register of Deeds.

Business Records:

Business records, including corporation filings, registrations, and information about LLCs and partnerships, can be found through the North Carolina Secretary of State. Many of these records are accessible online.

Court Records:

Court records, including criminal, civil, and family court cases, are available through the county courthouses or the Administrative Office of the Courts. Some records may be available online through the North Carolina Court System.

Driving Records:

Driving records, including driver’s license information and driving history, can be requested through the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). These records are available online, by mail, or in person.

Professional Licenses

Professional licenses, such as for lawyers, doctors, and teachers, are managed by respective licensing boards in North Carolina.

North Carolina State Archives:

The State Archives of North Carolina preserves and provides access to historically significant archival materials, including government records, maps, and photographs. They also have digital collections accessible online.

Are North Carolina Public Records Available Online?

Submitting requests for North Carolina public records has been made convenient through online channels, though you also have the option to request information via email or phone. Nevertheless, the most straightforward method to obtain the information you require is by submitting an online request. It’s important to note that agencies are obligated to fulfill your request promptly. Typically, for electronic data that is not certified, you won’t incur any additional charges beyond the cost of copying.

Which records are public in North Carolina

Which records are not public in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, certain records are not considered public and are exempt from disclosure under the state’s public records law. Here are some examples of records that are typically not public:

North Carolina Background Checks

Background checks in North Carolina are procedures used to verify an individual’s personal and professional history. They are commonly used by employers, landlords, and other entities to assess the suitability of individuals for employment, housing, or other responsibilities.

What Can Be Included In a Background Check Report?

Criminal Records

This includes information about arrests, convictions, and incarceration related to misdemeanors and felonies. It's important to note that some minor offenses or old records may not appear, depending on state laws and the type of background check.

Employment History

Background checks often verify an individual's employment history, including previous job titles, durations of employment, and sometimes reasons for leaving previous jobs.

Education Verification

Sex offenders are legally required to register in the area where they reside.aThis part of the check confirms the educational background claimed by the individual, including degrees earned and institutions attended.

Credit History

Particularly relevant for financial positions or roles that involve handling money, credit reports can provide insights into an individual's financial responsibility. However, the use of credit history in background checks is subject to legal restrictions.

Driving Records

For positions that require driving, a background check might include a review of the individual's driving record, including any traffic violations or accidents.

Professional Licenses and Certifications

Verification of any professional licenses or certifications the individual claims to hold, ensuring they are current and valid.

Civil Records

This includes information on any involvement in civil litigation, like lawsuits, particularly relevant for positions of trust or high responsibility.

Sex Offender Registry Information

For certain positions, especially those involving contact with vulnerable populations, background checks include a search of sex offender registries.

Personal References

Some background checks involve contacting personal references to learn about the individual's character and past behavior.

Drug Testing Results

Depending on the employer and the nature of the job, a background check may include drug testing.

North Carolina Court Records

Overview of the North Carolina court system and its Structure:

The North Carolina court system is a complex structure designed to handle a wide variety of legal matters. Here’s an overview of its key components and structure:

  • Supreme Court of North Carolina: The Supreme Court is the state’s highest appellate court. It reviews decisions made by the lower courts, especially those involving significant legal or constitutional questions.
  • North Carolina Court of Appeals: It is the Intermediate Appellate Court. This court reviews trial court decisions for errors of law or legal procedure. The Court of Appeals usually sits in panels of three judges, and its decisions are binding on lower courts.
  • Superior Courts: These courts have the authority to hear all types of civil and criminal cases but typically handle more serious matters, such as felonies and large civil cases. North Carolina is divided into a number of Superior Court divisions.
  • District Courts: These courts handle less serious criminal matters, civil cases involving lesser amounts of money, family law matters, juvenile cases, and infractions.
  • Magistrates: Magistrates have authority over small claims cases and minor criminal offenses and perform certain administrative and judicial duties such as issuing warrants and setting bail.
  • Business Court: A specialized court that handles complex business and commercial cases. Decisions from the Business Court typically go directly to the Court of Appeals.

Types of North Carolina Court Records

North Carolina Civil and Small Claims Records

North Carolina Criminal Records

North Carolina Family Records

North Carolina Probate Records

North Carolina Traffic Records

North Carolina Probate Records

Restrictions, Limitations, and Confidentiality

Court records are typically public documents, but there are restrictions, limitations, and confidentiality rules in place to protect sensitive information, ensure fair trials, and maintain privacy. The specifics can vary by jurisdiction, but here are some common restrictions, limitations, and confidentiality considerations regarding court records:

  • Personal Identifying Information (PII) Protection: Courts often redact or restrict access to personal identifying information, such as social security numbers, dates of birth, and home addresses, to prevent identity theft and privacy breaches.
  • Sealed and Confidential Records: Certain court records, especially those related to juvenile cases, adoptions, and sensitive family matters, may be sealed or made confidential to protect the privacy and well-being of those involved. These records are not accessible to the general public.
  • Restricted Access to Certain Parties: Some court records may only be accessible to the parties directly involved in the case, their attorneys, and specific government agencies with a legitimate interest in the information.
  • Court Orders for Access: In cases where there is a compelling reason to restrict access, such as to protect a witness or maintain national security, a court can issue an order to limit who can access certain records.
  • Redaction of Sensitive Information: Courts often redact sensitive information from publicly accessible documents to ensure that only non-confidential information is viewable by the public.
  • Limited Access to Juvenile Records: Juvenile court records are frequently restricted to protect the privacy and future prospects of young individuals involved in the justice system. Access may be granted to specific parties under certain circumstances.
  • Confidential Settlement Agreements: Settlement agreements reached in civil cases may contain confidentiality clauses that restrict parties from discussing the details of the settlement publicly.
  • National Security and Classified Information: In cases involving national security or classified information, court records may be subject to higher levels of confidentiality, and access may be restricted or granted on a need-to-know basis.
  • Court Orders for Non-Disclosure: In some instances, a court may issue a non-disclosure order to prevent parties from disclosing certain information related to a case, even if it is not inherently confidential.
  • Expungement and Record Sealing: Some jurisdictions allow for the expungement or sealing of certain criminal records under specific conditions, making them inaccessible to the public.

What do these records contain

North Carolina Public Vital Records

Marriage and Divorce Records: Marriage records are maintained by the Register of Deeds in the county where the marriage license was issued. Each county in North Carolina has a Register of Deeds office responsible for recording and maintaining such records. These records can be accessed for various purposes, such as genealogical research or legal matters. The state’s Vital Records office also maintains copies of marriage records. They provide certified copies of marriage records for legal use. Divorce records are managed by the Clerk of Court in the county where the divorce was finalized. These records are a part of the public court records and can usually be accessed through the courthouse. The state’s Vital Records office also maintains a record of divorces that have occurred in North Carolina. They provide certified copies of divorce certificates. 

Birth and Death Records: The Vital Records Section of the NCDHHS is responsible for maintaining a centralized registry of birth and death records for the state. They provide certified copies of birth and death certificates upon request. These requests can be made by eligible individuals, which usually include immediate family members or legal representatives. Each county in North Carolina has a Register of Deeds office that also plays a role in managing birth and death records. These offices are responsible for recording and maintaining these records at the county level. Individuals can request certified copies of birth and death records from the Register of Deeds office in the county where the birth or death occurred.

North Carolina Public Criminal Records

Definition and Types of Criminal Records in North Carolina

In North Carolina, a criminal record is an official document or collection of documents that detail an individual’s interactions with the criminal justice system. These records include a variety of information, such as arrests, charges, court proceedings, convictions, and sentences. Criminal records are maintained by various law enforcement agencies, courts, and correctional institutions throughout the state. Criminal records in North Carolina contain a range of information that documents an individual’s interactions with the criminal justice system. These records typically include:

  • Personal Identification: This includes the individual’s name, date of birth, nationality, and possibly other identifying information like Social Security number, physical descriptions (height, weight, eye and hair color), and photographs or mugshots.
  • Arrest Information: Details of any arrests are included, such as the date and location of the arrest, the arresting agency, the charges filed, and the circumstances surrounding the arrest.
  • Charges and Offenses: Criminal records list the specific charges or offenses the individual has been accused of or convicted for. This may include both misdemeanors and felonies, depending on the individual’s history.
  • Court Records: These include detailed records of court proceedings related to the individual’s cases. Information might encompass trial dates, court appearances, case numbers, the names of the judges and attorneys involved, court findings, and the final disposition of the case (e.g., conviction, acquittal, dismissal, or plea bargain).
  • Sentencing Information: For convictions, the record will detail the sentence imposed, which may include jail or prison time, probation details, fines, or community service requirements.
  • Incarceration Records: If the individual was sentenced to jail or prison, the record will include information about the incarceration, such as the facility where they were held, the duration of the sentence, and release dates.
  • Probation or Parole Details: If applicable, the record will also contain information about any probation or parole, including the terms and duration, as well as compliance or violations.
  • Sealed or Expunged Records: In some cases, records may be sealed or expunged, meaning they are not accessible to the public. However, certain agencies or organizations may still have access to these records under specific legal conditions.

Police Records and Reports

In North Carolina, police records and reports are documents generated by law enforcement agencies detailing their interactions and observations during their duties, such as during arrests or incident investigations. While records of criminal investigations are not public records, certain basic information within these reports is public, such as the time, date, location, and nature of reported violations, details about persons charged, and arrest-related information. However, law enforcement agencies may have different interpretations of what constitutes a record of a criminal investigation, which affects the accessibility of these records to the public​​.

Booking Records and Reports

Booking records in North Carolina are created after an individual is arrested and transported to a county jail. These public records typically include the arrested person's name, mugshot, arresting agency, reasons for the arrest, booking time, and case number. Many counties maintain online jail rosters of current inmates, and sheriff's offices often provide information about jail inmates readily, though the level of cooperation can vary across different counties​​.

DUI Records

DUI (Driving Under the Influence) records in North Carolina can be obtained from the Division of Motor Vehicles and are part of an individual's driving history report. These records include information about drivers who have been convicted of DUI and may be required for purposes like attending traffic school or verifying the removal of older incidents from one's driving record.

Felony and Misdemeanor Records

Felony and misdemeanor records in North Carolina encompass the documentation of criminal offenses ranging from minor misdemeanors to serious felonies. These records, prepared by various law enforcement agencies, courts, and correctional centers, include information such as the full name and personal details of the subject, fingerprints, mugshots, criminal offense history, indictments, arrest history, and conviction records​​.

Parole Records

Parole was replaced by Structured Sentencing in North Carolina in 1994. However, offenders whose crimes were committed before October 1, 1994, may still be eligible for parole. For post-1994 convictions, the North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission determines conditions for post-release supervision under the Structured Sentencing Act. Information about inmates released under Structured Sentencing can be found using the NC DPS Offender Search tool​​.

Probation Records

Probation records in North Carolina detail the supervision of convicted individuals serving their sentences outside of correctional facilities. These records outline the conditions imposed by the judge and the probation office, which vary depending on the crime. North Carolina recognizes both supervised and unsupervised probation, with the former requiring regular check-ins with a probation officer and adherence to specific rules​​.

Warrant Search

A North Carolina arrest warrant is a court-issued document authorizing the detention of an individual. It contains the subject's identifying information, a description of the alleged offense, details of when and where the arrest may occur, the expiry date of the warrant, and the issuer's name and date of issue. Law enforcement officers can also arrest individuals without an active warrant if they witness ongoing crimes​​.

Inmate And Jail Records

Inmate records in North Carolina provide information about individuals incarcerated or booked into local jails and state prisons. Managed by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NC DPS) and local law enforcement agencies, these records include details about the inmate's incarceration, identification, and eventual release. The NC DPS provides an inmate locator tool on its website for state prisons, while local jails maintain their records​​.

What you can find

Inmate and jail records in North Carolina contain various details about individuals who are incarcerated or have been booked into local jails and state prisons. These records typically include:

  • Personal Identification Information: This may consist of the inmate’s name, date of birth, mugshots, and physical descriptions.
  • Incarceration Details: Information such as the date of incarceration, the location of the jail or prison, and the inmate’s booking number.
  • Criminal Charges: Details of the charges for which the individual is incarcerated.
  • Sentence Information: Includes the length of the sentence and any information related to parole or release dates.
  • Behavioral Records: Records of the inmate’s behavior while incarcerated, including any disciplinary actions or commendations.
  • Health Records: Limited health information may be included, especially if it pertains to the management or accommodation of the inmate within the facility.

How to Conduct an Inmate Lookup in North Carolina

To conduct an inmate lookup in North Carolina, you can use several resources:

  • North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NC DPS) Inmate Locator: This online tool allows you to search for inmates in state prisons. You can search by name, offender number, or other identifiers.
  • Local Jail Databases: Many county jails in North Carolina have online search tools on their websites, allowing you to search for inmates by name or other identifying information.
  • Contact Local Sheriff’s Offices: If online resources are not available, you can contact the sheriff’s office of the county where the inmate might be held for assistance in locating an inmate.
  • Third-Party Websites: There are various third-party websites that aggregate inmate information from multiple sources. However, ensure these sites are reputable and up-to-date.

Jails & Prisons in North Carolina

State Prisons:

Can I look up mugshots in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, mugshots are generally considered public records and can often be accessed. However, the availability and method of accessing mugshots can vary depending on the county or the law enforcement agency that made the arrest. Many law enforcement agencies in North Carolina provide mugshots on their websites, especially for recent arrests. Some county jails have online databases where you can search for inmates, which may include their mugshots. If mugshots are not readily available online, you can make a public records request to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

North Carolina Arrest Records

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

What Do These Records Contain:

North Carolina arrest records typically encompass the following:

  • Personal Identification: The individual’s name, date of birth, and possibly physical descriptions like height, weight, and photographs or mugshots.
  • Arrest Details: The date and location of the arrest, the arresting agency, and the specific charges filed at the time of arrest.
  • Case Number: Unique identifier for the legal case associated with the arrest.
  • Booking Information: Details about the booking process, including dates and locations.
  • Bail/Bond Details: If applicable, information about bail or bond is posted.
  • Disposition: Initial outcome of the arrest, such as charges being dropped, bail set, or referral to a court for trial.

North Carolina Property and Asset Records Online

To find North Carolina property and asset records online, you can follow these steps:

  • County Tax Assessor’s Websites: Most North Carolina counties have online databases where you can search for property records by owner name, address, or parcel number.
  • County Register of Deeds: For more detailed property records, including deeds, liens, and mortgages, you can search the databases of the Register of Deeds in the county where the property is located.
  • GIS and Mapping Services: Many counties offer Geographic Information System (GIS) services that provide detailed maps and property information.
  • North Carolina Secretary of State Website: For information about business assets and property owned by businesses, you can search the business registry on the Secretary of State’s website.

Unclaimed Properties in North Carolina

To find unclaimed properties in North Carolina, you should visit the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer’s website, specifically their “Unclaimed Property Division” (also known as NCCash). This division is responsible for holding unclaimed property and funds that have been turned over to the state by companies and organizations that were unable to locate the rightful owners. On the NCCash website, you can search for unclaimed property by entering your name or the name of your business. If you find property or funds that you believe belong to you, the website provides instructions on how to file a claim. The process typically involves verifying your identity and proving your ownership of the unclaimed property. The service is free, and claims can often be filed online. 

Driving Records

Driving records in North Carolina, also known as Motor Vehicle Reports (MVRs), are official documents maintained by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). They provide a comprehensive history of an individual’s driving behavior and interactions with traffic law enforcement. 

Civil Driving Infractions

Civil driving infractions in North Carolina are non-criminal traffic offenses. These infractions can include:

  • Littering on the roadway
  • Speeding 
  • Illegal parking
  • Failing to signal or improper signaling
  • Failing to stop or yield
  • Seat belt violations
  • Faulty vehicular equipment
  • Making improper turns
  • Driving the wrong way down a one-way street

North Carolina White Pages - Access to Individuals, Addresses, and Additional Unofficial Details

Address Search ​

To conduct an address search in North Carolina, you can use a variety of online tools and databases. County property assessor’s websites are a primary resource, offering detailed property information, including ownership details, property values, and tax history. For more comprehensive data, you might also use Geographic Information System (GIS) services provided by many counties, which offer maps and property details. Additionally, online search engines and public record databases can be helpful. These tools are particularly useful for real estate research, legal purposes, or personal interest in a specific property.

People Search​

People searches in North Carolina can be conducted through several online platforms and public records databases. You can start with social media platforms and search engines for basic searches. For more official and detailed information, accessing public records through the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer’s website or the county clerk’s offices can be beneficial. Websites like North Carolina State Records also provide access to a variety of public records, including criminal records, court records, and contact information. Remember, while much information is publicly accessible, certain sensitive data may be restricted due to privacy laws.

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

In North Carolina, searching for the owner of a phone number can be done through various online services and databases, commonly known as reverse phone lookup tools. These services allow you to enter a phone number and retrieve information about the owner, including their name and address. However, the accuracy and completeness of the information can vary depending on the service used and the type of phone number (landline vs. mobile). It’s important to note that while some basic information may be available for free, more detailed reports might require a fee. Additionally, the availability of information might be limited due to privacy laws and the policies of phone companies.

License Plate Lookup in North Carolina

In North Carolina, conducting a license plate lookup to get information about a vehicle or its owner can be a bit challenging due to privacy laws. Individuals generally cannot access personal information associated with a license plate directly through the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) due to privacy restrictions. However, there are a few ways you might go about getting some information:

  • For Legal or Investigative Purposes: Law enforcement agencies, lawyers, or private investigators can access license plate information for legitimate legal or investigative purposes. They must demonstrate a legal right to access this information.
  • Through Online Services: There are third-party websites that offer license plate lookups. These services might provide information about the vehicle, such as make, model, and year, but they usually cannot provide personal information about the owner due to privacy laws.
  • In Case of Accidents or Incidents: If you need information from a license plate due to an accident or a similar incident, it’s best to report it to the police. The police can use the license plate number in their investigation and take appropriate action.
  • DMV for Specific Purposes: In certain situations, such as a hit-and-run incident, you may be able to request information from the DMV, but you’ll likely need a police report and proof of a valid reason for the request.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who and why can request public records?

In North Carolina, public records are generally accessible to anyone, regardless of their residency in the state. This means that any member of the public, including individuals, businesses, and organizations, can request public records. There is no requirement for the requester to state the purpose of their request, ensuring broad public access to government-held information.

Are there fees associated with requesting public records?

While public records are often accessible, there might be fees associated with their retrieval and copying. These fees cover the cost of locating, copying, and mailing the records. The specific fees can vary based on the type of record and the agency holding the records. Some agencies may charge a flat fee, while others may charge based on the number of pages or the time it takes to fulfill the request.

Are public records Free to access?

Access to public records can be free, especially if the records are available online or if the request is for a small number of pages. However, for more extensive requests or for physical copies, there might be fees associated with copying or retrieving the records. The aim is typically to cover the administrative costs of handling the request, not to generate revenue.

What is the response time for public records requests?

The response time for public records requests in North Carolina can vary based on the complexity of the request and the specific agency involved. Agencies are generally required to respond as promptly as possible. However, there is no specific timeline mandated by law, so response times can range from a few days to several weeks or more, particularly for more complex or voluminous requests.

Can my request be rejected?

Yes, your request for public records can be rejected under certain circumstances. Reasons for rejection may include if the records are confidential or exempt under state law, such as personnel records, certain law enforcement records, or information that would compromise privacy or security. If a request is too vague or broad, the agency may also ask for clarification or a more specific request. If a request is denied, the agency typically provides a reason for the denial.

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