The Freedom of Information Act made public records like criminal records and court records accessible to the public. This accessibility allows us to conduct background checks on anyone we invite into our lives, but they are only useful if you know how to access them.
Accessing Public Records
Public records are available both in-person and online and are maintained by federal, state, and local government agencies. These agencies also determine how records are made available and the cost (if any) of retrieving records.
Florida State Records Access
Florida State allows for public records access requests made via email, Tel: Fax: U.S. mail, or in-person from the Florida Department of State.
U.S. Mail records access requests should be mailed to:
Florida Department of State
Office of General Counsel
Attention: Margaret A. Swain
500 South Bronough Street, Suite 100
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
Telephone: Make requests by dialing (850) 245-6507.
Fax: Make requests by Faxing (850) 245-6127.
Make email requests by emailing DOS.GeneralCounsel@DOS.MyFlorida.com.
The Freedom of Information Act
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act into law in 1966, although it did not go into effect until the following year.
The Freedom of Information Act gave the U.S. public the right to access federal government agency records. The act also mandated that federal agencies are obligated to provide these records to the public if requested. The only exception is if the information is specifically protected by Florida law.
How does Florida law define public records?
The Florida Public Records Act (Florida Government Code Chapter 119) defines “public records” as:
“all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material, regardless of the physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency.”
What Agencies Are Subjected to Florida Public Records Law?
Agencies that are subject to the Public Records Law include any local officer, division, department, bureau, board, commission, or any government unit created or legally established, and any public or private entity, business, or person acting on a public agency’s behalf.
Government agencies created advisory boards designed to make recommendations or give advice are also subject to the Florida Public Records Law.
In Florida, there is no time limit for government agencies to respond to public records requests, but agencies are required to acknowledge and respond to requests in a timely manner.
Florida is a unique state when it comes to the refusal of public records, as there are hundreds of exemptions under Florida state law that allow agencies to refuse a request.
Florida Public Records Examples
Florida public records include (but are not limited to):
Florida public records are available for access by the public unless specifically exempted (as noted below) by Florida Gov’t Code s. 119.07(1), s. 286.011, or s. 24, Art. I of the State Constitution.
In Florida, “Government Code Title X – Public Officers, Employees, and Records, Chapter 119.071” outlines the exemptions for public record availability. According to this title, a government agency can refuse to release requested records under any of the statutory exemptions as listed on the Florida Senate webpage.
Some of these exemptions include:
- Social security numbers
- Certain parts of driving license records
- Names of victims involved in child abuse and sexual offenses
- Any confession by an arrested person until the case is resolved
- Any confidential informant and source-identifying information
- Information that reveals surveillance personnel or surveillance techniques
- Medical diagnostic information and medical history records
Further explanation of exemptions that apply to specific records is available in The Office of the Attorney General’s Sunshine Manual
Where Can I Get Florida Public Records?
You can request Florida public records via Tel: email, or by mail.
To request public records by phone, call 850-245-8336 during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Monday through Friday.
To request Florida public records by email, send an email to: DOS.GeneralCounsel@DOS.MyFlorida.com
To request Florida public records by mail, send a mail request to:
Florida Department of State
Office of the General Counsel
Attn: Margaret A. Swain
500 South Bronough Street, Suite 100
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0250.
When requesting public records by mail, be sure to maintain a formal tone and include all pertinent information. This information should include
- Request for public records under the Florida Public Records Act
- Your full name and your contact information
- A full description of the records that you are asking for
- A note that if your request gets denied, you are provided with the statutory citation under which the denial was made
Whenever you make a public records request, you will generally always receive acknowledgment when that request has been received.
You can also access Florida public records online by visiting the websites listed in the sections below.
Florida Criminal Records
Florida criminal records are accessible directly through the Florida Criminal Records FDLE Online portal.
Florida criminal records are documents that relate to the criminal activity of individuals under the jurisdiction of Florida state. These records include details of the offense committed, and information pertaining to the arrest. This information generally includes:
- The name, alias, gender, date of birth, nationality, ethnicity of the subject
- A mugshot of the subject
- A set of the subject’s fingerprints
- Unique physical attributes of the subject like scars and tattoos
- Misdemeanors and felony offenses committed by the subject
- Criminal history including arrest history, convictions, indictments, and any pending dispositions
Criminal records requests cost $24.00 per record request (per name submitted).
You may also search for current warrants and wanted persons using the Florida Crime Information Center website online.
Florida Arrest Records
Arrest records and criminal records are generally distinguished separately from each other. Arrest records are records containing information about a person or multiple people and their alleged involvement in a crime. Arrest records also frequently include indictment information.
Where a criminal record includes a wealth of information about an individual’s criminal past, an arrest record is not proof that someone was involved in a crime, only that they were arrested in regard to it.
Among the details included in Florida arrest records are:
- Details of the alleged criminal offense
- Name of the arresting officer and agency
- Holding facility
- Name, alias, gender, date of birth, nationality, ethnicity of the subject
- Date the subject was arrested
- The location where the subject was arrested
- Current status of the case
Arrest records are usually not included in criminal records and must be requested separately.
Like criminal records, arrest records are maintained by THE Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)
Florida Sex Offender Listings
In addition to criminal records and arrest records, Florida’s Megan’s Law requires the state to create and maintain a sex offender registry. This registry is made available to the public and allows the general public to look up sex offenders in their area (generally by displaying a map of the area around a designated address.
Sex offender listings are mandated by Florida’s Megan’s Law.
Under Megan’s Law, Florida requires that any sexual predator who has been convicted of carrying out or attempting to carry out any crimes noted in the Title XLV11 Chapter 943.043 of the Florida Statute on or after October 1, 1993, register with the state.
Florida’s Megan’s Law also requires that sex offenders who have been conspiring to commit, attempting, soliciting, or carrying out any of the crimes noted in the Florida Statute who were released on or after October 1, 1997, register with the state.
Failure to register as a sex offender in Florida is considered a third-degree felony.
FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) maintains a Sexual Offender and Predator System that can be searched online. This system is the most comprehensive database of Florida sexual offenders.
In addition to the main database, some Florida cities and counties also maintain their own sex offender listings. These counties and their corresponding databases include
- Escambia County http://www.escambiaso.com/
- Jacksonville http://www.coj.net/departments/sheriffs-office.aspx
- Leon County http://www.leoncountyso.com
- Manatee County http://www.manateesheriff.com/
- Martin County http://www.sheriff.martin.fl.us/
- Okaloosa County http://www.sheriff-okaloosa.org/
- Osceola County https://www.osceolasheriff.org/
- Palm Beach County http://www.pbso.org/
Florida Court Records
Florida courts are divided into four levels – Supreme Court, District Courts of Appeal, Circuit Trial Courts, and County Trial Courts.
Current court dockets can be found at the following links:
- Supreme Court Online Public Docket
- First District Court of Appeal Online Public Docket
- Second District Court of Appeal Online Public Docket
- Third District Court of Appeal Online Public Docket
- Fourth District Court of Appeal Online Public Docket
- Fifth District Court of Appeal Online Public Docket
Requests for official public court records should be made via email to email@example.com to the Florida Supreme Court pursuant to Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420.
Court records for cases that have been finalized can be found in one of two places- with the clerk of court or the state archives.
To access records from the Florida state archives you can request records by mail, email, or phone.
To request records by phone, call 850.245.6700 Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Eastern. If you call to request public records, the archive staff requires a written confirmation to detail the specific records being requested.
To request records by mail, send a written request to:
The Capital Post Conviction Public Records Repository
The State Archives of Florida,
R.A. Gray Building, MS 9-E,
500 South Bronough Street,
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0250
You can also request records via phone by calling 850.245.6700.
Once the line picks up, press option 1 for the State Archives.
Next, press option 4 for the Capital Post Conviction Public Records Repository.
You can also request records via email by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To request records from the clerk of court, requests should be sent to the clerk of court in the county where the case originated.
Contact sites for the clerks of each county court are linked below:
Florida Vital Records
Vital record is a term generally used to refer to birth records, death records, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, wills, driving records, voting records, and property deeds.
In Florida, birth records are not instantly public records, they only become public records one hundred years after birth.
Birth records of more recent births are held as confidential and are only accessible to
The person named on the birth certificate if they are aged eighteen or older or a parent or guardian of a minor child.
A parent who is listed on the birth certificate.
A guardian who can provide legal guardianship papers.
A legal representative who can provide documentation of their status.
Someone with a valid court order.
The spouse, sibling, child, or grandchild of a deceased person may request a birth certificate that will be noted with the word “deceased” if they provide a death certificate.
All requests for birth records require a valid photo ID.
Inquiries regarding birth certificate records should be directed to the Florida Department of Health.
Death records are not as protected as birth records and anyone over eighteen can request a certified death record copy so long as the cause of death is not noted on the certificate. It’s also important to note that the first five numbers of the deceased person’s social security number will be redacted.
Death certificates with a cause of death listed and that is less than fifty years old are confidential documents and can only be issued to
A parent or spouse.
A sibling, child, or grandchild who is eighteen years old or older.
Anyone who can provide an insurance policy, a will, or who can provide a valid document demonstrating an interest in the estate of the deceased.
Anyone who can provide documentation proving that they are acting on behalf of any of the above.
Anyone with a court order.
All requests for death records require a valid photo ID.
Inquiries regarding death records with a cause of death should be directed to the Florida Department of Health.
Florida offers marriage certificates from June 6th to the current date through the Bureau of Vital Statistics unless the marriage is less than 60 days old.
To request a marriage certificate you need to file a DH261 Application for Marriage Certificate with the Bureau for Vital Statistics along with a $5 search fee.
The application can be filed by walking into the bureau Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
1217 N Pearl Street,
You may also apply by mailing it to
Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics,
Post Office Box 210,
For marriages that are less than 60 days old, you must contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court where the marriage license was issued.
Marriage certificates can also be ordered online through Vitalchek for a fee. This fee includes a certificate, a search fee, and a rush fee of $15, and an identity verification fee of $7. Added certificates cost $4 and if you aren’t sure about the year an additional fee of $2 is charged.
Divorce Decrees or Dissolution of Marriage Certificate
Florida offers divorce decrees from June 6th to the current date through the Bureau of Vital Statistics unless the marriage is less than 60 days old.
To request a divorce decree you need to file a DH260 Application for Dissolution of Marriage with the Bureau for Vital Statistics along with a $5 search fee.
The application can be filed by walking into the bureau Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
1217 N Pearl Street,
You may also file the application by mailing it to
Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics,
Post Office Box 210,
For divorce decrees that are less than 60 days old, you must contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court where the divorce decree was issued. Additional certified copies are $4.
Divorce decrees can also be ordered online through Vitalchek for a fee. This fee includes a certificate, a search fee, and a rush fee of $15, and an identity verification fee of $7. Added certificates cost $4 and if you aren’t sure about the year you are charged an additional fee of $2.
In the state of Florida, wills or other probate records are not made available online. You can, however, contact the Florida probate court in the county where the deceased individual lived. The best way to do that is to visit the court in person, but you can also Fax: or mail your request.
To search for a probate court, simply search for the county where the deceased person resided and the term “probate court.” This will give you the contact information you need to visit the court in person or to send a mailed letter.
Keep in mind that only wills for estates that have gone through probate are public records.
To obtain a copy of a will, you must pay a copy fee and include a personal stamped addressed envelope if mailing your request so that a copy of the will can be returned to you.
Driving records are public records that are maintained by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Each time someone is issued a license and registration, the public records get updated.
Despite being public records, any personal information contained in driving records is exempt from public disclosure.
There are three types of driving records available through public records, a three-year, a seven-year, and a complete, driving record.
The three-year and seven-year driving records include information on any restrictions on driving and any traffic infractions. If you are found guilty of a traffic violation but are offered the opportunity to attend traffic school and keep points off your license, these infractions will not be included on your three and seven-year records.
A complete driving record includes information on any restrictions on driving, traffic infractions, and any information pertinent to driving over the past eleven years. This record also incorporates infractions that have been removed from your record after your attending traffic school.
The state provides online access to driver licenses and motor vehicle checks.
Other driving records, including motor vehicle histories, driver history, and crash reports are available, but they must be ordered through the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. These records come at a cost of $0.15c per page. Any requests that require extensive research (anything beyond 30 minutes is considered extensive), may also result in labor costs.
Looking up a driving record can be helpful for a few reasons.
- If you are being penalized with points on your license, but you do not know why checking your driving record can provide that information or show you an error that needs to be corrected.
- If you have multiple driving infractions, you may be close to having your license suspended. Looking up your driving record can tell you how many points* you currently have on your license.
- Some occupations require a clean driving record, if you are not sure what is on your record, you can pull your record to check what is on it before applying for a job.
*Driving infractions can result in points on your license. Different traffic violations net a different number of points depending upon the severity of the offense. If you get twelve points on your license within twelve months, the state will suspend your license for thirty days. Eighteen points accumulated over eighteen months results in a three-month suspension of your license. Twenty-four points accumulated over thirty-six months results in a twelve-month suspension of your license.
What is Included on a Complete Florida Driving Record?
A complete Florida driving record includes fourteen sections of information, personal information, license type, original and prior state information, license type, issuance history, exams, CDL exams, restrictions and endorsements, special driver information, sanctions, violations, crashes, driver’s school, and correspondence.
Personal information included in a Florida driving record includes your name, birth date, current address, and social security number.
This is the information that is not considered of public record.
Current License Type
Driving licenses are defined by classes. The class of your license is determined by what vehicles you are permitted to operate. For example, the most common license type is the A-class E license that allows holders to drive noncommercial vehicles under 26,001 pounds.
Original and Prior State Information
This section of information includes information on when your driving license was first granted by the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you hold a commercial license or have had licenses in other states, this information will also appear here.
This section of your record reiterates your current license type, but it also shows the status of your license, when that license was issued and when that license expires.
The status of a license may reflect that it is revoked, disqualified, canceled, suspended, non-eligible, and eligible.
This section will also include any identification cards, commercial driver’s licenses, operation licenses, and permits that you have had in the past.
This section of your record includes all issuance dates, renewal dates, and requested replacements for any ID cards including licenses.
The exam section includes a vision test, knowledge test, and driving test scores, how many attempts were made at tests, dates the tests were taken, and the results of the tests taken.
If you have a commercial driving license, this section of your driving record includes your commercial driving license exam date, score, results, and how many times you took the exam.
Restrictions and Endorsements
If you have any endorsements or restrictions on your driving license, these will be noted here.
Endorsements endorse you to drive specific vehicles – for example, commercial hazardous waste vehicles.
Restrictions may include something like the need to wear glasses while driving.
Special Driver Information
Any special information that needs to be noted on your driving record is noted here, for example, this is where you will find organ donor information.
Sanctions are actions that have been taken against you due to violation of federal and state laws.
This section of your record covers details about previous traffic violations. This includes the location of the violation, the date of the violation, the number of points added to your license as a result of the violation, and the citation number of the offense.
If you have been involved in any collisions that led to a citation, they will be listed here.
If you had to attend traffic school after receiving a violation or sanction, the classes you attended are listed here.
This section lists clerks of court school elections regarding traffic violations.
Here you will find violations where you were not eligible to attend traffic school after a violation OR when you attended traffic school but failed to complete the course as required.
This section also lists the satisfaction of sanctions.
Voter registration information for all voters (with very few exceptions) is considered a public record.
Information that is considered public includes your name, address, phone number, email address, date of birth, and party affiliation. Your signature can be viewed on your record, but will not be included in copied records.
Although your voter information includes your driving license number (or your state ID card number,) your social security number, and the source of your voter registration application will never be released to the general public.
The two instances where your voting information may not be revealed publicly include:
- If you are a participant of the address confidentiality program for victims of domestic violence and stalking as established by the Attorney General.
- You are within a specific category of high-risk professionals and send a written request to any agency that has your personal information including photo, address, and date of birth. You must then fill in the Public Records Exemption Request Form from the state of Florida and then submit that to the Florida Department of State.
Title and Land Records are maintained by the Florida Bureau of Survey and Mapping within the Division of State Lands.
Official property deed records may only be searched by a property owner. If you are looking for a deed and do not know the name of the property owner, you can retrieve that information online at the county property appraiser’s website. Searching the property appraiser’s website by address will give you the name of the property holder.
The County Records, Taxes, and Treasury Division can provide certified copies of documents that have been recorded.
If you are a property holder but have lost your original property deed, you must contact the Recording Office who can provide a certified copy of your original deed.
Florida Inmate Records
Florida inmate records are searchable through the Florida Department of Corrections Corrections Offender Network website. Inmates can be searched via their first and last name or by their Department of Corrections number.
Only felony offenders who have been sentenced to state prison or state supervision are listed in this searchable network.
Additional questions about inmates can be directed to the Department of Corrections via phone by calling the Bureau of Classification and Central Records, at (850) 488-9859
What are the fees associated with making a request?
Agencies in possession of public records may charge a flat fee defined by the law, but if no fee is defined, the agency may charge no more than 15 cents per page or 20 cents per double-sided page.
Additionally, Florida Government Code Title X – Public Officers, Employees, and Records, Chapter 119.071 an agency in possession of public records may charge up to $1 per copy for a certified copy of a public record.
In the instance, that record retrieval requires significant staff time or use of information technology, the agency in question is permitted to charge a reasonable fee that represents the actual cost of retrieval.
What Happens Once You Request Public Records?
Once you request public records, the agency contacted is obligated to produce the records in a timely manner. It’s important to note that the state does not define what constitutes timely delivery.
If an agency does not provide public records in a timely manner, you may seek remediation.
If your request is denied, by an agency, be sure to get the denial in writing and that the denial includes the statutory provision under which your request is being denied.
If you feel that the denial of your request is unjust, you can request that the decision be reviewed.
There are three methods of seeking review.
- You can file an official complaint with your local state attorney.
- You can seek mediation via the Office of the Attorney General Open Government Mediation Program.
- You can file a writ of mandamus with the circuit clerk challenging the denial and requesting that the court force compliance with your public records request.
What Happens If a Denial Is Found to Be Unjust?
If an agency’s denial of your public records request is found to be unjust, the court will issue an injunction that compels the agency to comply with your request.
If a denial is found unjust, the court can also compel the agency to pay for the cost of your attorney fees.
Are court records public information?
Yes. Under Title X, Chapter 119.0714, court records are public information and qualify as public records unless exempted by law.
What if there is an error with your public records in Florida?
If you believe that there is an error on any of your public records, contact the agency responsible for the guardianship of that public record. For example, if there is an error on your criminal history record, you would contact the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
If there is an error in the local sex offender registry, inaccurate information should be sent to the FDLE Missing Persons and Offender Registration by phone at1-888-357-7332 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Restriction of Access to Public Records in Florida
Agencies that do not have specific authority may not require that you meet certain requirements to access information that is available under the Public Records Act. This includes things like requiring you to explain why you want access to records, requiring that you make a request in writing, or requiring that you show your identification.
Violating the Public Records Act in Florida
Violating the public records act in Florida can be done in several ways including:
- Putting unreasonable limitations on an individual who is requesting to view public records. For example, only allowing access to the records for one hour a week but only with a full day’s notice.
- Unjustifiably delaying access to public records.
It is not considered a violation of the Public Records Act if a custodian of records needs time to find out whether records are in existence, if the custodian of records believes that the records being requested are exempt from public records disclosure, or if the person requesting the public records has not paid the necessary fee for the documents they are requesting.
If a public record contains information that is available under the Public Records Act in Florida, as well as information that is protected and not to be disclosed, the custodian of records, can redact the protected section of the document so that only the information that is not protected is readable.
Penalties for Violation of the Public Records Act in Florida
Florida Statute 119.10 outlines the penalties for violating the Public Records Act in Florida. Penalties range from a fee that should not exceed $500 to a second-degree misdemeanor charge.
If it is determined that someone unintentionally violated the Public Relations Act, they can be found guilty of a non-criminal violation and can be charged up to a $500 fee.
If it is determined that someone intentionally or knowingly violated the public records act, they can be found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor and may be forced to pay a fine of no more than $500 and a jail term of no more than two months.
If someone violates the public records act intentionally in Florida and they are a public officer, they may be suspended or removed from office altogether.
If two parties go to court over violation of the freedom of information act, and it is found that the requestor was unjustly denied access to public records, they may request that the opposing party pay for their attorney fees and court costs.