Georgia Public Records

A public record refers to information recorded or filed by a public agency that is considered open and available for anyone to inspect. What constitutes a public record is wide-ranging but generally includes any information, in any medium, created, maintained, processed, or kept by local, state, or federal government agencies.

Examples of public records are emails, court records, historical data, meeting minutes, criminal records, photographs, and more.

Each public agency must comply with state and federal law to determine the policies regarding the maintenance of and access to public records, along with any fees. Public records can be requested in person, by email, phone, postal mail, or online. Typically the agency responsible for the records will have detailed information about requesting public records on their website.

However, there is a long list of exemptions, fees, and processing times that can request public records lengthy and complicated. That’s why we have put together this comprehensive guide for Georgia public records.

We will start with the federal and state laws that define public records in Georgia.

Which federal laws apply to public records in the United States?

The main objective of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), signed into law in 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, is to provide citizens with transparency of all federal government-related activity. The goal is for people to trust and have faith in their government.

Under the FOIA, all federal government agencies (excluding Congress and the federal judiciary) must provide any requested information within a timely manner unless otherwise exempt by law. If exempt, the federal agency responsible must give details regarding the statute or law that prevented the disclosure of information.

How does Georgia law define public records?

The Georgia Open Records Act (GORA) ensures access to public records so that people are aware of and able to address what is happening with public funds and the overall function of their government. The GORA mandates that public records are made available for inspection promptly.

The GORA defines “public record” as all documents, letters, papers, maps, tapes, books, photographs, computer-generated or based information, data, data fields, or similar material prepared, maintained, or accepted by a person or agency using that information for government use.

In Georgia, if a public request is denied in part or completely, the agency responsible must provide specific information regarding the Code section, subsection, and paragraph stating the reason the request is exempt. The agency must provide the records or reason for denial within three business days.

Exemptions

Georgia Code § 50-18-72 is specific about what information is not considered public. Below is a summary of the exceptions to the Georgia Open Record Act:

  • Any information federal statute or regulation requires to be kept confidential
  • Any permanent records maintained by a judge of the probate court under Code Section 16-11-129, relating to weapons carry licenses, or according to any other requirement for keeping records relative to the possession of firearms, except when law enforcement agencies or probate court judges seek records relating to licensing and possession of firearms.
  • Any trade secrets
  • Restricted records of the Commissioner of Labor or the Department of Labor
  • Restricted records of the Department of Early Care and Learning
  • Restricted development plans of the Department of Economic Development
  • Restricted records concerning specific inventories of the Department of Natural Resources
  • Confidential higher education, public, or private entity information regarding research, testing, scoring, donations, and other information
  • Restricted law enforcement records, including pending investigation information
  • Specific neighborhood watch or public safety notification program details
  • Restricted records involving the hiring, investigation of complaints, suspension, or firing of public employees or officers
  • Specific recreational or athletic program records
  • Confidential attorney work product
  • Department of Natural Resources information that the disclosure of would mean there is a substantial risk of harm, theft, or destruction to the species or habitats or the area or place where rare species or habitats exist
  • Emergency 911 details
  • Federal funding details
  • General Assembly by the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office, the Senate Research Office, or the House Budget and Research Office administration details
  • Individual Georgia Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident Reports
  • Jury list data
  • Medical or veterinary records
  • Public agency computer software or programming records
  • Confidential attorney-client communication
  • Farm water use information with water-measuring devices
  • Records that name certain University System of Georgia applicants </li
  • Certain Department of Agriculture records
  • Security plans
  • State Road and Tollway Authority or Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority records that would disclose travel or financial information of motorists or individuals using these systems
  • Tax records that are considered confidential under state or federal law

For a full list of exemptions and exceptions to the Georgia Open Records Act, click here.

Court Records

This section provides an overview of Georgia’s court system structure, details regarding what public records are open to the public to inspect, and how to search for court records.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Georgia is the highest court of the state. The Supreme Court’s primary responsibility is to review decisions made by lower courts or agencies.

The Supreme Court has exclusive appellate jurisdiction for all cases regarding the Constitution of the State of Georgia where an ordinance, provision, or law’s legal status is challenged, treaty construction, and all cases involving election disputes.

The Supreme Court’s jurisdiction includes:

  • Court of Appeals certified cases
  • Wills
  • Title to land
  • Equity
  • Habeas corpus
  • Divorce and alimony cases
  • Extraordinary remedies
  • All cases that could result in a death sentencing

The Supreme Court of Georgia has one chief justice, a presiding justice, and seven justices.

Court of Appeals

The Georgia Court of Appeals, established in 1906, is the state’s intermediate appellate court. It is the court of first review for criminal and civil cases adjudicated in a trial court. Such a review aims to correct legal mistakes occurring at the trial level, not change jury verdicts or bench trial outcomes. This court can certify legal questions to the Supreme Court.

The Georgia Court of Appeals has appellate jurisdiction for all cases in the state, except for murder, constitutional questions, and habeas corpus cases where the Supreme Court has sole appellate jurisdiction.

The Court of Appeals of Georgia has fifteen judges serving in five divisions.

Superior Court

Georgia’s Superior Courts have general jurisdiction over felonies, land title matters, equity cases, and divorces. These trial courts can also hear misdemeanors, civil law actions, and appeals from lower courts.

State Court

Georgia’s State Courts have limited jurisdiction restricted to one county. State Court judges handle preliminary hearings in criminal cases and hear civil cases not held exclusively for Superior Courts. State Courts also issue arrest and search warrants and hear misdemeanor cases involving traffic violations.

Juvenile Court

Georgia established Juvenile Courts to protect children’s well-being and provide control and guidance promoting the child and the state’s best interests. Juvenile Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over delinquent youths under the age of 17 and deprived children under 18. These courts also ensure children removed from their homes receive proper care.

Probate Court

Georgia’s Probate Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over estate administration, guardian appointments, the probate of wills, and involuntary hospitalization of dependent individuals. All Probate Court Judges are responsible for issuing marriage licenses and conducting oaths of office. They can hear habeas corpus cases or rule on preliminary criminal hearings.

In counties where there is no State Court, Probate Court Judges can hear certain traffic cases, misdemeanors, and violations of state game and fish laws in counties without a State Court, except when a jury trial is requested.

Magistrate Court

Georgia’s Magistrate Courts have jurisdiction over civil claims not exceeding $15,000. These claims can include distress warrants, arrest and search warrants, certain minor criminal offenses, distress warrants, eviction notices, deposit account fraud, county ordinance violations, preliminary hearings, and summonses. The Magistrate Court does not hold jury trials. Typically the involved parties, not attorneys, argue their case.

There are 159 Magistrate Courts in Georgia, one for each county in the state. There is one Chief Magistrate per Magistrate Court; the Chief Magistrate is responsible for establishing policies and assigning cases and judges for their county.

Municipal Court

Georgia’s court system includes local courts, which have different jurisdictions. Courts of incorporated municipalities issue criminal warrants, hear municipal ordinance violations, handle preliminary hearings, and have joint authority over cases involving possession of one ounce or less marijuana and shoplifting cases.

Judicial Council of Georgia

The Judicial Council of Georgia, founded in 1945, is responsible for establishing policies and providing guidance for the state’s courts. The Judicial Council makes recommendations to the General Assembly, approves financial requests, and reviews Superior Court judgeship requests.

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), created in 1973, serves as the Judicial Council’s staff. The AOC’s goal is to deliver expert guidance and support to the Georgia judiciary. The AOC completes administrative tasks and provides the courts with financial services, information technology support, and legislation advice.

Are court records public information?

Court records in Georgia are considered public information unless otherwise stated by law.

Search Georgia Court Records

There are several ways to search for Georgia Court records. You can also submit an FOIA request for public court records.

Georgia Judicial Gateway

The Georgia Judicial Gateway (GJG), established by the Judicial Council and Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), provides access to court records.

To search for court records using the E-Access portal, called PeachCourt, you will need to know the name of the court where the case was tried. You will then need to register if you have not already. It is free to register, although you can choose to upgrade.

Once you have set up your account, you can view case dockets, search for cases, and look for stamped documents. You can search by case number or party name, and you will receive the following results:

  • Court
  • Parties
  • Attorneys
  • Case Title
  • Case Number
  • Initiation Date
  • Assigned Judge
  • Status

Court of Appeals Search

You can search Court of Appeals records using the state’s Docket/Case Inquiry System.

You will need to enter the Trial Court or Court of Appeals case or docket numbers or a relevant term having to do with the case.

A Court of Appeals search will provide you with the following information:

  • Court of Appeals information, including the case number, style, status, docket/notice date, remittitur date, term, Supreme Court transfer, COA judgment/ruling, opinion/order
  • Trial Court information, including the case number, clerk, judge, county, court, appeal order, and Notice of Appeal
  • Filings, motions, and court actions
  • Court initiated actions
  • Attorney information
  • Supreme Court information

Supreme Court Search

You can search the Supreme Court of Georgia’s online docketing system to look up appeal, brief, and motion filings heard by the Court. The search will result in the following information:

  • Case number
  • Status
  • Style
  • Description
  • Docket Date
  • Calendar
  • Oral Argument Date
  • County Location
  • Lower Court Numbers
  • Proceedings
  • Filings & Motions
  • Orders
  • Disposition
  • Attorneys

Criminal Records

Criminal records in Georgia include the following information regarding misdemeanor or felonies:

  • Arrest details (date the arrest occurred, arresting officer(s) and agency, charges)
  • Sentencing information
  • The offender’s identification details, including their name, birthdate, social security number, sex, race, height, weight, etc.)
  • Final judicial disposition information given by a prosecutor, court, or other criminal justice agency
  • Incarcerations details (if the offender is in a correctional facility in Georgia)

Search Arrest Records and Warrants in Georgia

The Georgia Criminal Information Center (GCIC), a division of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), serves as the state’s central criminal repository for arrests and final dispositions.

There are several ways to search criminal records in Georgia that include arrest and warrant information:

  • In-Person: You can make an appointment with the GCIC (same-day appointments are not available) to request fingerprint services or record inspections. Call 404-244-2639 (option 1) to make an appointment. Find fee information here. You can also obtain a copy of your Georgia criminal history record from most Police Departments or Sheriff’s Offices. Contact your local law enforcement agency for specific requirements to obtain a copy of your Georgia criminal history record.
  • Online via GAPS: You can conduct a search using the Georgia Applicant Processing Service (GAPS) online.
  • Online via Georgia Felon Search: You can search for felony conviction records using the Georgia Felon Search online tool, which is managed by the Georgia Technology Authority. There is a $15 fee per search using this tool.

Georgia Inmate Records

The Georgia Department of Corrections is responsible for the state’s inmate records. Within the department is the Facilities Division, which supervises the offenders sentenced to prison in Georgia. The Facilities Division manages the following:

  • 35 state prisons, housing approximately 50,000 offenders
  • 2 integrated treatment facilities
  • 12 transitional centers
  • 12 residential substance abuse treatment facilities
  • 7 probation detention centers

The Facilities Division is responsible for the custody of Georgia offenders in four private prisons and 21 county prisons. Search facilities using this map or find the address or phone number for a facility.

Search Inmate Records Online

You can search for an inmate in Georgia using the state’s Find an Offender tool.

Georgia Juvenile Criminal Records

A juvenile record is an official record detailing the criminal activity of children or adolescents. Per Georgia Juvenile Code § 9-27-309 and under the discretion of Georgia circuit courts, juvenile records are considered confidential and are not available for the public to access. Only if the juvenile was tried as an adult and adjudicated for class A misdemeanors or felonies having to do with weapon violence are excluded from confidentiality.

Sex Offender Information

In Georgia, a sexual offender is defined as an individual charged and convicted of crimes against minors or dangerous sexual offenses or has been convicted in another US state or territory.

The Sexual Offender Registration Review Board (SORRB) is responsible for determining an offender’s level of risk. There is a Level 1, Level 2, and a Sexually Dangerous Predator classification. To learn more about SORRB, click here.

Georgia’s Violent Sex Offender Registry is maintained by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) under OCGA § 42-1-12. You can search the Sex Offender Registry by name, offender type, offense, county, race, gender, or address. The search will provide you with the following information:

  • Name, including any aliases
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Birthdate
  • Last known address
  • Physical description
  • Conviction offense, state, and date
  • Level Information (1, 2, or Sexually Dangerous Predator)
  • Predator status
  • Absconder status
  • Registration Date
  • Residence verification date

Using this map, updated bimonthly, you can monitor the following data:

  • Out-of-State Offenders
  • Incarcerated Offenders
  • Total Number of Sex Offenders

You can also download the most recent Sex Offender Registry using this link.

If you cannot find a sex offender’s record on Georgia’s registry, one of the following explanations may be the reason:

  • A sex offender’s record was deleted due to their death.
  • Sex offender did not meet registration requirements
  • A sex offender is a newly registered
  • Sex offender successfully completed his first offender sentence
  • Incorrect information was entered

Sex offenders remain on the registry for life per OCGA § 42-1-19 unless removed by a court order.

Vital Records

In Georgia, the State Office of Vital Records is responsible for registering, maintaining, amending, protecting, and providing access to vital records in a timely and secure manner. Vital records refer to:

  • Birth
  • Fetal deaths (stillbirth)
  • Adoptions
  • Paternity acknowledgments
  • Marriage
  • Death
  • Induced Termination of Pregnancy (ITOP)

Georgia has a vital records office in each of its 159 counties. These offices can issue birth certificates, death certificates, process paternity acknowledgment applications, and initiate corrections or amendments to vital records.

The State Office of Vital Records keeps information on vital events occurring from 1919 to the present. If you are looking for records that are older than 1919, the county where the event happened can help. The Georgia Archives can also be of assistance.

Birth Records

A birth certificate refers to the official documentation of a birth occurring in Georgia. Birth certificates are used for many reasons, such as:

  • Establishing your identity
  • School enrollment
  • Tax purposes
  • Driver’s license applications
  • Obtaining health insurance

Eligible Birth Certificate Recipients

Under OCGA 31-10-26, birth certificates can only be issued to individuals or parties with a direct and tangible interest in the registrant, and proof of identity is required in most cases. Eligible recipients include the following:

  • Birth certificate registrant
  • The parent(s) listed on the birth record
  • An authorized legal guardian or agent
  • Grandparents of the registrant
  • An adult child or adult sibling of the registrant
  • The registrant’s spouse
  • Attorney for the above-listed individuals
  • State or Federal Government Officials

Request a Georgia Birth Certificate

If eligible, you can order a certified copy of a birth certificate in person, online, or by mail from the State Office of Vital Records or your local county office.

  • By Mail: Complete the Request for Search of Birth Form 3918 and provide the appropriate identification, including the payment, and mail to the State Office of Vital Records, 1680 Phoenix Boulevard, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30349. Mail-in requests typically take 4 to 10 weeks to process as they come from the State Office.
  • In-Person: County Vital Records Offices or the State Office of Vital Records offer walk-in service Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm (excluding state holidays). The office can typically complete your order the same day as the request.
  • Online: You can order vital records online using one of three options: ROVER, GoCertificates, or VitalChek. For fees and more information, click here.

The fee for mail-in and in-person requests is $25 per certified copy if the record is on file. Any additional copies requested at the same time are $5.00 each. The fee is non-refundable. There are additional processing fees when requesting vital records online.

Request Corrections to a Birth Certificate

The State Office of Vital Records offers two types of corrections:

Death Records

A death certificate is the official documentation of death and includes information such as the cause, date, and location where the death occurred. A death record is used for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Estate settlements
  • Life insurance or pension claims
  • Certain legal reasons
  • Research purposes

The State Office of Vital Records keeps death records dating back to January 1919 in Georgia. If you are looking for death records older than 1919, contact the county where the death occurred. The Georgia Archives can also help.

Eligible Death Certificate Recipients

Those that are eligible to request death certificates in Georgia include primary family members or their legal representatives.

Request a Death Certificate

You can request death certificates in person, by mail, or online in Georgia.

  • By Mail: Complete the Request for Search of Death Record (Form 3912), include the payment and required documentation, and mail to the State Office of Vital Records, 1680 Phoenix Boulevard, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30349. Mail-in requests typically take 4 to 10 weeks to process as they come from the State Office.
  • In-Person: County Vital Records Offices or the State Office of Vital Records offer walk-in service Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm (excluding state holidays). The office can typically complete your order the same day as the request.
  • Online: You can order vital records online using one of three options: ROVER, GoCertificates, or VitalChek. For fees and more information, click here.

Request Changes to a Death Certificate

To request changes to a death certificate, you must complete the applicable form (listed below), include payment, and mail it to the State Office of Vital Records, 1680 Phoenix Boulevard, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30349. The Death Correction Requirements form has valuable information regarding these types of requests.

Marriage Certificates

The State Office of Vital Records is responsible for issuing certified copies of marriage applications, verifications, and certificates. These documents are used for:

  • Divorce proceedings
  • Evidence of a name change
  • Legitimation reasons
  • Genealogical research

Request Marriage Applications and Certificates

The State Office of Vital Records maintains marriage applications and certificates from June 1952 to August 1996. The bride and groom (or party 1 and 2) are the only individuals eligible to request certified copies of marriage applications.

To request a copy of a marriage certificate, application, or verification, follow these steps:

  • Complete one of the following forms: Request for Search of Marriage Form or Marriage Verification Request Form (if you need to confirm the county where the event took place).
  • Include payment, which is non-refundable: $10 search fee for one certified copy, $5 for every copy after that if requested at the same time
  • Mail the form, payment, and proof of identity to the State Office of Vital Records, 1680 Phoenix Boulevard, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30349

Changes to Marriage Certificates/Applications

The probate court in the county where the marriage took place can help you if you would like to request a change to a marriage certificate or application.

Paternity Acknowledgment

A Paternity Acknowledgement, or PA, is defined by Georgia law as a determination or acknowledgment of paternity that declares an individual is the biological father of a child. It is simply that and not a legal document outlining custody deals.

You can establish paternity in Georgia if:

  • The child’s parents were legally married to each other when the child was born;
  • Unwed parents sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Form upon the child’s birth in the hospital or later at either the Vital Records Office in the county where the birth occurred or the State Office of Vital Records in Atlanta.
  • Court order (separation agreement, divorce decree, or other administrative or judicial order)

Forms used for PA requests include the following:

You can find out more information regarding PA in the following brochure:

Putative Father Registry

The Putative Father Registry (PFR) is Georgia’s database that includes information about males who might be a child’s biological father. Georgia’s PFR provides the male’s name, social security number, and address if he has either:

  • Signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity form stating that they are the father of a child.
  • Registered on the putative father registry stating that it is possible they may be a child’s father.

Generally, fathers register with Georgia’s PFR if they don’t know where their child currently resides, think that they are the father of a child, or the child’s mother is preventing them from contacting the child.

Only authorized individuals can search the Putative Father Registry as it is considered confidential information per Georgia Code (Section 19-11-9 (e)). Those eligible includes:

  • The Georgia Department of Public Health, a member in good standing with the State Bar of Georgia, or a licensed child-placing agency if the reason is to find a biological father.
  • A governmental agency, department, commission, board, bureau, or political entity of any state to find an absent parent.

If you are authorized to search the state’s Putative Father Registry, complete the Request for Search of Putative Father Form and mail it to the State Office of Vital Records for processing.

Adoptions Records

The Georgia Department of Human Services, or DHS, helps individuals search for family information via the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry or GARR. Before a search can begin, you must obtain consent from every individual involved. DHS/GARR will collect and file consent or dissent from every party.

  • Adult Search for Biological Parents: For adult adoptees (18 years of age or older) or a deceased adoptee’s surviving adult children, GARR may be able to find information identifying their biological parents and coordinate contact with them.
  • Adult Search for Siblings: Adult siblings (18 years of age or older) attempting to contact each other can get help from GARR if one of them is an adoptee.
  • Birth Parent Search for a Child Placed for Adoption: GARR can assist birth parents looking to find out information or contact their child they placed for adoption if the adoptee is older than 18.
  • Access to Background Information: GARR can assist an adult adoptee (over the age of 18) by providing non-identifying information from the sealed adoption record. A court order is not necessary. Adoptive parents must request this information if the adoptee is under the age of 18.
  • Biological Family Assistance: The DHS/GARR can help a biological family member file written consent, releasing their identifying information and providing it to the adoptive family. DHS/GARR will also register a biological family member’s request to keep their identifying information confidential. Sealed adoption records are considered confidential, and the state will not release any identifying birth family information.

Suppose you would like to request a Certificate of Adoption. In that case, you will need to complete this form, including the appropriate fee and required photo identification, and mail it to the State Office of Vital Records, 1680 Phoenix Boulevard, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30349.

Business Records

The Georgia Corporations Division maintains the state’s business records. You can search businesses, services of process, and trademarks online. There is no charge to search for these types of records.

Business searches will provide you with the following information:

  • Business name
  • Business type
  • Principal office address
  • Registered/designated agent name
  • Business status
  • Control number
  • Date of formation/registration date
  • Officer information

Services of process searches include:

  • Filing information
  • Defendant information
  • Statutory authority
  • Case information

Trademark searches result in the following information:

  • Mark name
  • Mark description
  • Registration number
  • Mark type
  • Class
  • Registrant name
  • Status
  • Registration and expiration date

Historical Records

The Georgia Archives classifies, collects, preserves, and provides access to the state’s historical documents dating back to 1733. The Georgia Archives protect your property and legal rights, support legislators, and help state agencies.

Georgia’s Virtual Vault gives users online access to the state’s historic photographs, government records, manuscripts, maps, and more.

You can search Georgia Archives’ Virtual Vault by clicking here.

Property Tax Records

Georgia’s property tax records are maintained by the Department of Revenue. You can search for property tax records by county by clicking here.

Driving Records

The Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) is responsible for driving records in the state.

You can obtain what’s known as an Individual Georgia Driving History Report, also called a Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) in several ways:

  • Online: you can request a three or seven-year certified or non-certified MVR. you can pay by MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express, or you send in payment via mail using a printable payment coupon. Acceptable forms of payment include cashier’s check, check, money order, MasterCard, Visa, Discover, or American Express. To request an MVR online, create an account or log in here.
  • DDS 2 GO Mobile App: you can download the app to access your driving history. You can view two years of your driving history for free. Three or seven-year MVR reports (certified or no certified) are also available on the app. The app accepts MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express.
  • In-Person: You can request a three-year, seven-year, or lifetime MVR at any DDS Customer Service Center. Complete the Motor Vehicle Request Form (Form DDS-18) . You must obtain the driver’s signature if you would like to request another driver’s MVR. DDS Customer Service Centers only accept major credit or debit cards and cash.
  • By Mail: You can send a letter or Motor Vehicle Request Form (Form DDS-18) requesting a three-year, seven-year, or Lifetime MVR. Include your driver’s license number, mailing address, and a stamped, send-addresses envelope to the Georgia DDS MVR Request, Post Office Box 80447, Conyers, Georgia 30013

Include a Credit Card Authorization Form if paying by credit card. Make checks payable to the Department of Driver Services.

A three-year driver history report is $6.00. A seven-year driver history report is $8.00, and a lifetime driver history report is $8.00

What do I do if there is an error with my public records in Georgia?

If you believe that a mistake has been made in any of your public records, you can contact the government agency responsible for the record. Most government agencies provide assistance online (check the FAQ section or website page), or you can contact them directly.

Background Hawk - Team

Background Hawk - Team

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