Instant Accessto State, County and Municipal Records
Staterecords.org provides access to CRIMINAL, PUBLIC, and VITAL RECORDS (arrest records, warrants, felonies, misdemeanors, sexual offenses, mugshots, criminal driving violations, convictions, jail records, legal judgments, and more) aggregated from a variety of sources, such as county sheriff's offices, police departments, courthouses, incarceration facilities, and municipal, county and other public and private sources.
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Are Georgia Records Public?
Georgia’s Open Records Act (OPA) establishes access to a vast selection of public records. Residents can see, inspect or obtain copies of different Georgia public records by sending a request to the custodian in charge of the records. Some examples of records available under the OPA include:
- Georgia public sex offender information
- Georgia divorce records
- Georgia public death records
- Georgia public inmate records
- Georgia bankruptcy records
- Georgia public arrest records
- Georgia property records
- Georgia court records
Public records aren’t limited to only documents. Georgia’s Public Records Act broadly defines records to include letters, books, photographs, letters, tapes, and maps. Records may also consist of data fields, computer-generated information, data or material prepared or received by an agency (O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70 (b)(2))
Who Can Access Georgia Public Records?
Almost anyone may obtain Georgia public records. Georgia’s public record laws specify that records can be accessed by "citizens of the state.” Nevertheless, the state attorney general and multiple court rulings support the view that public records may also be obtained by non-residents of the state. Interested persons can obtain copies of a record by submitting a request to any of the agencies covered under the act, including:
- Every county, school district, and municipal corporations in Georgia
- Every county, city, or any other authority established under the law
- Every agency, state department, commission, bureau, board, or state authority
- Every agency, department, bureau, commission, or authority of each municipal, county, or any other political subdivision.
What is exempted under the Georgia Public Record Law?
Although Georgia’s Open Record Act provides broad access to government-generated records, it also restricts access to records that contain protected or exempted information. Government agencies may deny a request to inspect or obtain copies of any of the following:
- Records containing the personal details of government employees such as the telephone number, home address, medical information, or social security number.
- Records containing private medical information, social security number, insurance information, or other private data
- Records that contain information on real estate appraisals made by an agency in relation to a future acquisition
- Records that contain information the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of privacy
- Records that contain information deemed confidential or classified by the govt
- Records that provide information about ongoing investigations being managed by law enforcement agencies
- Records that may reveal confidential sources tied to an investigation
- Records containing accident information from the Georgia Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident Reports
- Records containing the personal home addresses, names, security code, or phone numbers connected to fire alarm systems or other security systems
How Do I Find Public Records in Georgia?
Georgia’s Open Record Act mandates that government agencies provide quick access to non-confidential records upon request. Requesters can obtain copies of a record by submitting a request in person or by mail. Although record custodians have different rules, the steps for obtaining public records in Georgia are largely similar:
Identify the Right Record
Record seekers can expedite their search by correctly identifying the type of record required. Georgia public records fall into different categories, ranging from criminal records to court records to vital records. Requesters are also expected to provide enough information to assist with the search, such as the name of the registrant or a case number if known.
Note: Government agencies may defer the search and retrieval of any record if the request appears too broad, overly vague, or burdensome. This is especially true for requests that cost more than $25. The OPA permits agencies to insist on a prepayment for “any instance in which the estimated costs for production of the records exceeds $500.00.”
Identify the Record Custodian
Government agencies manage different records. For instance, the superior courts and state courts maintain public civil and criminal court records while criminal history information can be obtained by contacting the Georgia Bureau of Information. Residents may be able to access a record by submitting a request to the department that deals with public coordination and communication. Some agencies also have lobbies where visitors can view or inspect open records during working hours.
Create a Written Request
Most agencies and government departments recommend that record seekers submit their requests in writing. This is done to ease the process as well as create a paper trail. Depending on the type of record, requesters may be expected to include key information such as:
- The method of delivery (addresses and contact details)
- A clear description of the record
- The contact details and the full name of the requester
- A specified date range for the request
- Any other information that may assist the search
- The type of record
Review and Submit Request
The final step to obtaining a record is submitting the request. Residents may opt to either submit their request in person or send it via mail. Some agencies provide an online records request page for added convenience. Custodians typically charge a small fee for photocopying or printing copies of a record for seekers. An additional fee may be charged for searches that require data extraction.
Using Third-Party Sites
Some public records may also be accessible from third-party websites. These non-government platforms come with intuitive tools that allow for expansive searches. Record seekers may either opt to use these tools to search for a specific record or multiple records. However, users must typically provide enough information to assist with the search such as:
- The name of the subject involved in the record (subject must be older than 18 or not juvenile)
- The address of the requestor
- A case number or file number (if known)
- The location of the document or person involved
- The last known or current address of the registrant
Third-party sites are not sponsored by government agencies. Because of this, record availability and results may vary.
How Much Do Public Records Cost in Georgia?
Although Georgia public records are generally free, state laws permit public bodies to charge a nominal fee for accessing or creating copies of a record. Government agencies may charge a maximum of $0.10 for each copy of a record (.O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71) In addition to the material used for copies, the charges also cover the time spent by the staff while processing the request. Although the process varies with different agencies, most custodians generally insist on payment before the request is processed.
How do I look for Public Records in Georgia free?
Most of the agencies and departments in Georgia allow requesters to inspect public documents for free. For example, the Georgia Department of Corrections provides free online access to inmate information. Residents can search for offenders by adult name, race, gender, and age. Likewise, information on convicted sex offenders is publicly available and free of charge via the state’s sex offender registry. That said, residents who wish to obtain copies of a record will likely need to pay a small fee.
Do I Need to State My Purpose When Requesting Public Records in Georgia?
Requesters do not require a statement of purpose when seeking to inspect or obtain copies of records in Georgia. That said, access to some records may require the provision of a valid government-issued I.D such as a driver’s license or U.S passport. Access to some records may be restricted to only eligible persons, such as the registrant, close family, or legal representative. Requests may also be denied if the custodian considers the information prohibited or exempted by law.
What Happens if I am Refused a Georgia Public Records Request?
The state of Georgia provides several remedial options for situations where a record request is denied.* Requesters can opt to file a lawsuit with the local superior court to force compliance. Residents who choose this option will likely require the assistance of a skilled attorney. Another is to file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General. This is an effective solution in cases where the requester is able to show that the custodian has willfully and intentionally violated the state’s public record law.
Submitted complaints must include all the details associated with the record request such as:
- A description of the requester record
- The date the request was submitted
- Details of the government agency as well as the officer who turned down the request
- A copy of the denial letter*
- Name and contact details of the requester
Note: Record custodians must provide a written explanation for any denial, stating the legal basis behind the decision.
How to Remove Names from Georgia Public Search Records?
Although removing names from public records searches can be extremely complex, residents may be able to achieve this by having their records restricted (expunged) or sealed. Georgia statutes permit the selective restriction of some records. The conditions of record restriction largely depend on the type of crime, when the crime occurred and whether the offender has been arrested for any other crimes.
Restricting Juvenile Records
Residents with misdemeanor convictions may be able to have their names removed from the record if the crime was committed before they turned 21. However, this option is only permitted for individuals who have successfully completed their sentence with no subsequent charges for other crimes (minor traffic offenses not included). Record restrictions are not allowed if the youthful offender was convicted or more serious crimes such as:
- Sexual battery
- Computer pornography
- Severe traffic offenses such as vehicular homicide, reckless or aggressive driving, driving under the influence, or fleeing the scene of an accident
Restricting Records for Non-Convictions
Under state laws, residents involved in criminal cases that ended without a conviction may apply for a restriction. This includes individuals with charges that were dismissed, placed on a dead docket, or closed by the law enforcement agency. Residents with cases that ended with a reversed or vacated conviction or a verdict of not guilty may also be eligible for a record restriction. However, a restriction may be impossible if the indicted registrant:
- Has an established pattern of criminal activity prosecuted in another jurisdiction
- Had the charge dismissed as a result of suppressed evidence
- Pled guilty to a separate charge in the case
What is the Best Public Records Search Database?
Access to public records largely depends on the type of record. Records seekers can find updated information by contacting the agency that is directly in charge of the records. For instance, the Fulton County Sheriff's Office manages the best public records database for obtaining local inmate information. And the Georgia Bureau of Investigation maintains a central sex offender registry which provides the best public records search database for mid-risk and high-risk sex offenders convicted within the state.
How Long Does it Take to Obtain a Georgia Public Record?
According to the Georgia OPA, record custodians are required to provide a response within a reasonable time that doesn’t exceed “three business days.” (G.A. § 50-18-71(b)(1)(A)) In the event that an agency is only able to locate part of the requester records, the custodian must update the requester and provide the results within the three-day period. For records that prove more elusive, record custodians must provide the requester with a description of the records and an estimated cost and timeline of when the records are likely to be available for copying or inspection.
In some cases, record custodians may choose to restrict access to all or part of a record because it contains exempted information. Whenever this occurs, the record custodian must provide a reason for the decision, with a reference to the exact legal code (section and subsection) that forbids disclosure and release.