There are a number of states in the US that make it relatively hard to conduct a public record search, either securing most of their records away from the public with legislation or rules or making those records difficult to track down by spreading them across a multitude of difficult to deal with departments.
Kansas, on the other hand, makes it relatively simple and straightforward – thanks in large part to the Kansas Open Records Act.
This act guarantees that everyone has the right to petition for public records from the government at each and every level.
Not only does this make it a whole lot easier for record requests to be run, but it also promotes a lot more transparency throughout the state government as well.
Public officials and government officers at every level of the state know that their records are going to be totally transparent and available to the public upon request. That level of transparency helps to incentivize better record-keeping and better access, too.
At the same time, getting public information in the state of Kansas can still take a little bit of time if you’re not sure of exactly how to navigate the process.
That’s where this detailed guide comes into play, though.
What Federal Laws Apply to Public Record Requests in the US?
Every state across America, including Kansas, is federally required to follow the public record laws established in 1966 with the creation of the Freedom of Information Act.
Originally signed into law by then Pres. Lyndon Johnson, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) mandates that all federal agencies are required to furnish documents to the public if a request is made unless that information is specifically exempted by law.
States across the country (including Kansas) have their own version of FOIA that they follow as well, but all states are beholden to this piece of federal legislation.
How Does Kansas Define Public Records?
To start things off, it’s important to understand that there are two foundational state laws that open up a lot more transparency with the Kansas state government than used to exist in the past.
The first law, the Kansas Open Records Act, was signed into law on July 1 of 2000, and made it so that the public would be provided access to public records and information that they might not have had access to previously.
A bundle of laws and legislation together under a single act, the overarching theme of this act was that every level of government in the state of Kansas – from local on up – was beholden to these rules and these new regulations.
On top of that, every single division of the state government was also beholden to the same rules and regulations with very few exceptions.
The Kansas Open Records Act also mandated that Kansas public records be kept available in public agencies and be accessible in a swift and efficient manner, giving the government up to three days to respond to requests for information.
Any citizen has the opportunity to request this information as well, and the government agency in receipt of the request is not legally allowed to inquire or require a statement of purpose behind why those records are being requested to begin with.
At the same time, the Kansas Open Records Act also allows the different departments and public agencies in the state to deny a request of publicly available information if (and only if) it places an unreasonable burden on the agency or if the department or agency feels that the request is made to upset the flow of the government workings.
We can say that the state of Kansas has a fantastic record for transparency with their public records, though, very rarely choosing to decline record access for arbitrary or capricious reasons.
The other act that helps to govern public access to records and information in the state is the Kansas Open Meetings Act.
This piece of legislation was signed into law in 2010, and it requires that all meetings for the conduct of governmental affairs as well as the transactions of governmental business will be made available to the public upon request.
Examples of Public Records in Kansas
As highlighted earlier, Kansas allows individuals and organizations to request public records from pretty much every department of state government and at every level (unless strictly exempted).
This means that Kansas public record requests can be in regards to:
- Business Records
- Court Records
- Criminal Records
- Driving Records
- and Vital Records
On top of that, Kansas also provides public record information (upon request) for historical records, property and tax records, some licensing records, and more.
We dig deeper into the kinds of public records available from the state government of Kansas in just a moment.
Kansas has a number of exemptions for their Open Records Act, records that are explicitly protected from public record access. Some other special exemptions (usually on a record by record basis) may be handed down by the state or federal authorities as well.
As of early 2021, there are 55 exemptions outlined explicitly in the Kansas Open Records Act, with the overwhelming majority of these exceptions revolving around personal information (like adoption data or medical records). Some exemptions have to do with criminal investigations, trade secrets, or state security protocols, too.
These exemptions can include, but are not limited to:
- Government personnel information
- Records that are fully protected by attorney/client privilege or attorney work product
- Any notes or preliminary drafts that were drawn up by governmental organizations, departments, or representatives
- Any correspondence between private individuals and Kansas government agencies
- Records that have anything to do with current or pending administrative/civil loaded litigation
More information about these exemptions can be found clearly outlined in the Kansas Open Records Act documentation, specifically under KSA 45–221(a).
Where Can I Make Public Record Requests in Kansas?
Those looking to run record requests in the state of Kansas are going to want to identify what kind of check they want to initiate in the first place and then figure out which governmental organization or department is responsible for maintaining those records.
As we highlighted earlier, criminal records are going to be handled by both the Kansas Department of Corrections as well as the Kansas Bureau of Identification.
Court records are generally handled through the Kansas Courts online database, though Supreme Court and Court of Appeals records are going to be kept separate and handled by the Kansas Appellate Court Case Inquiry System.
Inmate records are handled through the Kansas Adult Supervised Population Electronic Repository, an online database maintained by the Kansas Department of Corrections, too.
Vital records are not publicly available records, but the Office of Vital Statistics in Kansas is where individuals will need to seek out their own records, records of immediate family members, and records they are entitled to seek as legal representatives of another individual.
What Kinds of Fees are Associated with Public Record Requests?
Specific language in the Kansas Open Records Act (KSA 42-215) gives the state government (and each individual agency) the ability to require advance payment for any of the costs that may be associated with public record requests.
Public record requests that are able to be provided to individuals or organizations within one hour of being requested (or that are less than 100 pages printed) are to be made available 100% free of charge for Kansas residents.
Those that do not live in Kansas, however, may be asked to pay a small fee even for those kinds of fulfillment.
For public record fulfillments that are not going to be able to be fulfilled within an hour or are going to be larger than 100 pages the following fees shall apply (as of 2021):
- $0.25 per page for each printed page
- $0.125 per page for each electronic page
- $0.50 for the first five pages to be mailed, and $0.25 for each additional five-page increment after that
Faxing of Documents
- $0.65 per 10-page fax
On top of that, each agency in the Kansas state government has the opportunity to charge extra fees if it finds these record requests to be particularly time-consuming or resource-intensive.
As we mentioned a moment ago, Kansas government agencies and departments also have the opportunity to request prepayment before they start their search as well.
In those situations, an estimated cost will be provided to the individual making the record request. If the estimated amount exceeds the amount required after the request has been fulfilled, the requestor will be reimbursed for the difference.
Provided that there aren’t any special exemptions in place (always related to disclosure agreements), court records are always available to the public the same way that criminal records, inmate records, and vital record information is.
Kansas used to have a pretty messy court records system, but more than 20 years ago they moved to a more centralized case management system that is much easier to search and much easier to use.
This system is maintained and operated by the Kansas Courts. This database is available 100% online by visiting www.kscourts.org/public/Request-Court-Records, with most of the information broken down depending on the specific type of court the records would have been generated in.
What Do These Records Include?
The kind of information available on these types of record requests include:
- Court case data including files and transcripts
- Any information regarding final judgments for civil as well as criminal cases
- Court specific budgets
- Certified oaths of office in the state of Kansas
How Should I Request Court Records?
Kansas (like every other state in the United States) has a number of different court systems responsible for handling different kinds of legal cases.
You have the municipal courts that deal with city-level violations, district courts responsible for hearing both civil and criminal cases inside of district jurisdictions, and then you have the Supreme Court of Kansas and the Court of Appeals.
All of those different court levels have their records maintained by the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration, the organization that is responsible for maintaining court records and the digital databases we highlighted a moment ago.
To take advantage of the publicly available records in this system available for the Supreme Court of Kansas or the Court of Appeals one would have to visit the Kansas Appellate Court Case Inquiry System.
The system is wholly separate from the other court systems and more information about gaining access to these reports and this information can be found at www.pittsreporting.kscourts.org/Appellate.
Criminal records are available upon request in the state of Kansas to most anyone – whether you live or work in Kansas or not.
Individuals and organizations looking to make these public record searches are going to want to make sure that they reach out to the Kansas Department of Corrections (DOC) directly. This is the agency responsible for organizing, maintaining, and providing criminal information.
Kansas likes to divide their criminal record reports into four individual sections, though, so expect an approved request to provide you with reporting that includes information to break into the following sections:
- General Introduction
- Identification of the Subject in Question
- Criminal Justice Cycle Information
- Confinement Information
For more help gaining access to this kind of criminal involved, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Kansas DOC or visit their databases online at www.doc.ks.gov.
More information can also be made available through the Kansas Bureau of Identification. It might not be a bad idea to reach out to the KBI directly to see if they are responsible for the records you are after, either.
Information on these reports will include:
- Conviction information for felonies as well as misdemeanors in the state of Kansas
- Convictions for violations of any municipal ordinances as well as county resolutions in the state of Kansas
- Confinement information pertaining to stays at the Kansas DOC facilities
- Arrest records that stretch back at least 12 months and
- Active diversions that have not yet been completed
More information about requesting these kinds of record requests can be found by visiting the Kansas Bureau of Identification website at www.kansas.gov/kbi/criminal-history.
How Long Do Criminal Record Searches Take?
Online checks conducted through the KBI website (mentioned earlier) are almost always going to be fulfilled instantly.
Mailed in requests, though, can take anywhere from one to three weeks to be completed. Processing for these kinds of record checks will almost always be determined by the volume of requests being handled by the KBI at any one point in time.
How Long Does Criminal Information Stay on a Record?
All criminal records are going to be permanently recorded in the state of Kansas, though some can be expunged or sealed upon request – provided key criteria have been met.
Most expungements only happen after a set amount of time has passed since the conviction (usually a couple of years). Sometimes it takes two years with a clean record for criminal history to be expunged, sometimes it takes up to five years.
Any convictions in the meantime “reset” the timer.
Can Much Are Criminal Record Checks?
All “name-based” record requests for criminal background in the state of Kansas will be charged at a $20 per individual request price point.
Fingerprint-based record requests (or record requests that are certified or run in conjunction with federal databases and organizations) may have extra fees added on top of that $20 base payment.
For the most part, warrant records in the state of Kansas are considered to be public records and should be made available upon request in most circumstances.
Requests will have to be made through the Kansas Judicial Branch (usually through the KSCourts.org/Public/Request-Court-Records website) and they generally are fulfilled in a short block of time.
Certain warrant records, however, may not be available to the general public under the Kansas Open Records Act. These records can still be requested on the Kansas Courts website mentioned a moment ago, but they will likely be denied – at which point an appeal can be made.
Search warrants that have been filed in criminal cases are often sealed completely when they are issued and will remain sealed until a return has been filed. Upon the return being filed, however, the search warrants, as well as the return, become public records (unless specifically sealed through court orders).
At the end of the day, it usually takes anywhere between three and five business days for the KC Courts system to respond to warrant requests.
Arrest record information is (generally) available to the public through the Kansas Open Records Act.
These kinds of record searches should go through the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. The online database for this organization (the KB) can be found on the Kansas.gov/KBI website.
Each individual search will be available on a sliding scale fee-based structure, depending on the type of search being run, the extent of the information released, and the amount of data that can be dug up on the specific individual being researched.
Those that have questions about how to access this information are going to want to contact the Kansas Bureau of Investigation directly, which can be done through the offices of both Derek Schmidt (Attorney General) or Kirk Thompson (Director of the KBI).
What Will Arrest Records Include?
Arrest records will generally show information that includes:
- Personally identifying data (name, date of birth, etc.)
- Physical description of the individual (their height, weight, sex, race, etc.)
- Photographs and mugshots (when applicable)
- An incident description, breaking down (usually in chronological order) the account of the alleged crime that the arrest was made for
- Location and time/date of the arrest
- Fingerprints when booked and processed
- Specific details regarding the charges filed
- Specific details regarding the classification of the crime (felony or misdemeanor)
- Bail information (when applicable)
- Court date information (when applicable)
This kind of record almost always includes any details or notes generated during the interrogation of the arrested individual, too.
Kansas jail and prison facilities have about 10,000 people incarcerated right now, which is right around the national average according to information provided by the Prison Policy Initiative.
Public record requests pertaining to inmate records will be handled by the Kansas Adult Supervised Population Electronic Repository (KASPER) system, a 100% online searchable database system maintained in partnership with the individual incarceration locations as well as the Kansas DOC.
How Can I Find Inmate Records?
Those interested in running record requests that include this kind of data will need to visit www.kdocrepository.doc.ks.gov/kasper, create an account (free of charge) on the platform, and then move through the application or database search components.
Individuals running record requests through this system will also have to provide detailed information about the individuals they are looking for inmate records for.
Name, date of birth, and Kansas DOC inmate number will help to identify the right records for the right people.
- The kind of information available during this check can include, but is not limited to:
- Name and birthdate information
- Physical description as well as photographs/mugshots (when applicable)
- Kansas Department of Corrections inmate registration number
- Conviction information and description
- Housing location
- Custody/supervision details
- Institutional disciplinary record information and
- Anticipated release date
Sex Offender Records
The state of Kansas maintains a registered sex offender website through the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, 100% free of charge and available not only to individuals living and working in the state of Kansas but anyone else in the United States (or around the world, really) that wants access to the information.
Visitors to the www.kbi.ks.gop/registeredoffender will have to digitally agree to a Condition of Use agreement to gain access to this information, but after that, all of the most current available and up-to-date records will be provided online.
Individuals can search via name search tools as well as geographical search tools, and can even sign up for community notifications or provide more information through a digital submission form about sex offenders in the state.
There is a specific office in the state government dedicated to maintaining vital records, a situation that is somewhat unique to the state of Kansas and a handful of other states across America.
Today more than 10 million vital records are maintained by the Kansas Office of Vital Statistics, broken down into birth records, marriage records, divorce records, and death records.
The information available in this public repository is generally only available for the purpose of applying for passports, school enrollment applications, the transferring of property, collecting on life insurance benefits, and a handful of other purposes.
These records are not technically considered to be public records, which means that they are only going to be available to the individual whose name is on the record itself, their immediate family, or legal representatives of the named individual.
Upon request of this information, the state of Kansas through the Office of Vital Statistics is going to request further proof and evidence that the individual requesting the data is authorized to do so before the application is approved.
Some of this information is available online through the Kansas Vital Statistics VitalChek program (www.vitalchek.com/vital-records/Kansas), though it may be necessary to actually visit a regional Office of Vital Statistics location to gain access to this information, too.
Business records available for public search are going to be maintained by the Office of the Secretary of State under the Business Entity Search Station. The searchable database can be found at the following website, https://www.kansas.gov/bess/flow/main?execution=e1s1.
The information available in this database includes:
- Business Entity Information – All of the information available on file with the Secretary of State
- Business Name Availability – A searchable database of all registered business names in the state of Kansas (updated every 10 minutes)
- Charitable Organization Information – A searchable database of all registered charities in the state of Kansas
- Trademark/Service Mark Database – Information regarding trademarks and service marks that are currently on file with the Kansas Secretary of State
It is important to note that the state of Kansas does not require any sole proprietorships, any “DBAs”, or any assumed name/tradename/or fictitious name entities to provide their information to the Secretary of State.
That kind of information – even if it is being used for business purposes – will not be available with a public records search.
Even more information about businesses in the state of Kansas can be found by visiting the Business Services Department of the Secretary of State.
This website can be found here (https://sos.ks.gov/business/business.html) and not only includes links to the databases that were mentioned above, but also information like:
- Business Service Forms
- Trademark and Service Mark registration/FAQ
- Information regarding the state Uniform Commercial Code
… As well as a whole host of business resources including Kansas statutes having to do with business, rules on expedited judicial proceedings, finance rates, and more.
Kansas has a long and illustrious history of maintaining immaculate public records for posterity, with many of their records stretching all the way back to 1875.
Public record requests for historical records and documentation should be made through the Kansas Historical Society (www.KSHS.org), with these kinds of requests able to be made online, over the phone, or in writing via snail mail.
Those that want to send a written request for public records from the Kansas Historical Society (KHS) will want to write:
Kansas Historical Society
6425 SW. 6th Ave.
Topeka, KS 66615
The KHS can also be reached throughout the week at 785-272-8681. Email requests should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the online collections that can be searched without having to make public record requests include:
- Kansas Memory Digital Collections
- Digital Newspapers
- Building Surveys
- Detailed Genealogy Indexes
- County Records
- Military Records
Visitors to the Kansas Historical Society website are also going to be able to find detailed resources specifically pertaining to KHS public record requests.
These resources include public record request best practices, help for making these kinds of requests, creating and scheduling record retention schedules, how to use the state archives, and more!
Property and Tax Records
Property and tax records are available to be searched by the public and are considered (under the Kansas Open Records Act) to be publicly available information.
Individuals and organizations looking to make requests for this information are going to have to contact the local county treasurer’s office for the specific individual or specific piece of property that they want to know more about.
There are 105 individual counties in Kansas, each of them with its own treasurer office. Records can be found for those individual officers with a quick Google search.
There are also a number of third-party platforms out there online that allows individuals to search for the property tax information and property value for any address (Kansas, or anywhere else in the United States) just by punching that address into their search engine.
Those figures, however, are not to be considered “official” numbers from the Kansas government.
Individuals that want to request driving record information from the state of Kansas can do so through the Division of Vehicles, a subdivision of the Kansas Department of Revenue.
Visitors to the www.ksrevenue.org website will be able to get an online application for a “Request for Access to Vehicle Records”, or individuals can visit any local Division of Vehicles office and fill out an application right there in person.
Vehicle registration records cost $10, vehicle title history records cost $25, and certified title histories cost $30. Vehicle information for dealers is available at the price of one dollar per printed page.
Motor vehicle records are available for $10 as well, certified motor vehicle records available for $15 (as our clearance letters), and driver’s license folders or certified driver’s license folders will cost $20 and $25, respectively.
What Should I Do If My Kansas Records are Inaccurate or Incomplete?
If in the course of conducting public record requests throughout the state of Kansas, records are found to be either incomplete or inaccurate it’s important to contact the state as quickly as possible with the discrepancies.
Each individual record-holding department should be contacted with specific details provided for the inaccuracies that were uncovered.
If, for example, inaccuracies were found on a criminal public record request then the Kansas Bureau of Investigation should be contacted.
The representative from that specific agency will then walk you through the process of remedying the issue, clearing up the problem either right there on the phone or letting you know that it will be addressed in the near future (and providing you with a deadline for the resolution, too).
All in all, the process is generally pretty simple and straightforward and involves little more than simply reporting the issue to the department or agency maintaining those records, and then waiting for them to confirm and remedy the situation moving forward.