Public records refer to a wealth of information that has been compiled or filed by various public agencies. This includes criminal records, driving records, financial documents, and so much more.
Each state has specific laws and regulations that govern access to these records. Here, you can find everything you need to know about Missouri public records.
Which Federal Law Applies to Public Records in The United States of America?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 1966 is the federal law that provides every individual with a right to access federal agency records. As stated in this act, the right is enforceable in court.
Every federal agency, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), must ensure they can give access to the requested records promptly unless the records (or a part of the records) are protected under the nine FOIA exemptions.
These nine exemptions include the following:
- Internal agency rules and/or practices
- National defense and foreign relations information
- Trade secrets
- Any information that is prevented from disclosure by a different federal law
- Information protected under the Privacy Act
- Inter-agency communications legally prevented from disclosure
- Geological well information
- Any information regarding supervision of financial organizations
- Information made for law enforcement purposes if the information disclosure would lead to one of the following:
- Invasion of an individual’s privacy
- Deprive someone of the right to a fair trial
- Disclosure of procedures and/or law enforcement techniques
- Interference of enforcement processes
- Endangerment of the life or safety to a person
- Disclosure of the identity of an anonymous source
It’s worth remembering that all states have their own laws and regulations relating to public records. However, most of them do align appropriately with the Freedom of Information Act.
Missouri State Records Mission
Missouri State Records Mission is to grant the right of every citizen to find, obtain, preview, and inspect public records. This mission ensures that every resident of Missouri is allowed access to public information in alignment with the Missouri Sunshine Act.
The aforementioned act stipulates the openness of the state’s public bodies to give their citizens information when it is requested.
Missouri State Records can grant information about criminal records, vital records, and court records, with over 50 million public records on file compiled from all 114 counties.
How Does Missouri Law Define Public Records?
In 1973, the Missouri Sunshine Law (Mo. Code §610.023) was passed into the Missouri Constitution. This made the state one of the first bodies to advocate for the open records act.
Within this law, it states that votes, actions, meetings, records, and deliberations of public bodies are open to access by the public. According to the Missouri Sunshine Law, a public record is defined as, “any record, regardless of physical characteristics, that has been written, stored, compiled, or held by any public governmental body, including memorandum, survey, or other document prepared for by the body”.
Under the law, anyone can request documents and you do not need to attach a statement of purpose. The use of such records is unrestricted — unless making employment decisions — and you should expect a response to your record request within three working days.
The agency can, in certain situations, invoke a Reasonable Cause Exception. This allows the agency to extend the three-day compliance limit. However, the reason for the extension cannot be to delay proceedings.
If you don’t hear back from an agency at all within three working days, the agency has to provide you with a detailed written explanation as to why they are so late. Alongside this, they have to give you a completion date.
If you are denied access to public records, you can appeal the decision in the circuit court. This is the only route to take following this violation in Missouri. You have one year to appeal it.
Examples of Missouri Public Records
Missouri public records include the following:
- Property and tax
- Business and licensing
- Government contracts and final decisions
All public records in Missouri, sometimes called public information, can be obtained and inspected by anyone unless they are exempt (discussed below) as stated by Mo. Code §610.023 in the Sunshine Law.
The Sunshine Law openly states that all exemptions and limitations to the provision of public records are strictly and narrowly construed. This allows the governmental bodies to be as open as possible with the records as stated in Mo.Rev.Stat. §610.011(1).
However, disclosure of certain records is subject to the reasonable conditions and rules set forth by the relevant authorities. However, this is usually reviewed on a case-by-case basis. If parts of a document are exempt from public disclosure, the part that is not exempt must be released to the requester as stated under §610.024.1.
These exceptions (even though most are subject to discretion) are defined clearly under the Missouri Sunshine Law §610.021 but, we have provided a detailed overview below, along with the exact placement in the laws and codes:
- Litigations — Found under Mo.Rev.Stat. §610.021(1), it includes more than litigations. See below:
- Records stating legal actions, reasons of action, or litigation involving a government public body
- Records including confident/privileged communication between attorneys and representatives relating to a public body
- Legal work product (specific information coherent with your situation can be found under Librach v. Cooper, 778 S.W.2d 351-254 Mo.Ct.App. 1989)
- Real Estate — Mo.Rev.Stat. §610.021(2) — Government records regarding leasing, purchasing, or selling of real estate by a public body, including minutes of closed meetings (even if the sale, purchase, or lease doesn’t happen). Before prohibiting access to search records, the statute defines that the agency must determine that the relinquishing of the information will adversely affect legal consideration for the real estate. However, all documents have to be made public once the lease, purchase, or sale has been completed, according to Mo.Ct.App. 1995.
- Employment — Government records containing information on hiring, disciplining, firing, or promoting an employee of a government body might be closed under Mo.Rev.Stat $610.021(3). It can only be exempt if personal information about a specific employee is discussed or noted inside the document. Personal information includes the performance or merit of specific employees. More personal information exemptions can be found in Mo.Rev.Stat. §610.021(13) or below.
- National Guard/State Militia — Found under Mo.Rev.Stat. §610.021(4).
- Non-Judicial Mental/Physical Health Proceedings — Mo.Rev.Stat. §610.021(5) — Exempt records must include identifiable persons including the following diagnosis:
- Drug dependency
- Scholastic Records — All records relating to scholastic expulsion, probation, graduation, individual test scores, and individual identification might be closed under Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(6). Parents and guardians can, however, access information on their child regardless of the age of the student.
- Testing/Exam Materials — This information is generally closed if the test is yet to be administered or it will be administered again in the future under Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(7).
- Welfare — If individuals can be identified from the records, the records will not be accessible. More information under Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(8).
- Public Employee Negotiations — Any preparations or discussions had on behalf of a public governmental body with employee groups or potential patterns are closed under Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(9).
- Computer Programs — Including software codes for data processing and documentation are inaccessible to the public under Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(10).
- Competitive Bidding — Specifications for such bidding until they have been publicly disclosed by the governmental body under Mo.Rev.Stat. §610.021(11) following the Hanten V. School Dist of Riverview Gardens case.
- Sealed Bids — All related documents are closed under Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(12) until the bids are opened or they are all rejected/accepted.
- Personnel Records — This includes identifiable individuals, performance ratings, employee information, and private sources contributing to the salary of a president of public colleges. Find more information under Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(13).
- Record Protected From Disclosure by Other Laws — More detailed information is stated below but it is stated plainly in Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(14).
- Scientific/Technological Innovations — Found under Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(15).
- Abuse Hotlines — Documents related to municipal hotlines and reports of abuse or wrongdoing can be closed under Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(16).
- Auditor Records — This includes privileged/confidential communication between a public governmental body and an auditor. This includes work products. Although, Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(17) states that final reports are open records.
- Anti-Terrorism Records — Operational guidelines, response tactics, and policies relating to circumstances that are considered to be terrorist in nature are closed. Details can be found under Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(18) and Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(19).
- Security System Access Codes — Portions of documents containing authorization/access codes for any physical and digital properties are exempt from the Missouri Sunshine Law under Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(20).
- Computer System Information and Data — Including information regarding the component’s configuration and operation are closed under Mo.Rev.Stat. §610.021(21).
- Credit Card and PIN Numbers — Self-explanatory but more information can be found here — Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(22).
- IP Licensing Information — This includes records made and entered by a single person, corporation, or other entity to a public institution in connection with an intellectual property license. Detailed information can be found in Mo.Rev.Stat §610.021(23).
- Social Security Numbers — Mo.Rev.Stat §610.035 states that no entity will disclose a Social Security number unless:
- Disclosures must be complied with under federal law or regulation.
- Disclosure is used for civil, arbitration, admin, or criminal proceeding
- Disclosure is authorized by the owner of the number
This is a very detailed look at the exemptions of access under the Missouri Sunshine Act. However, other records may be closed following other laws and acts should they apply to certain situations. These exemptions include but are not limited to:
- Agricultural Records — Mo.Rev.Stat §196.560, Mo.Rev.Stat. §276.551, Mo.Rev.Stat. §277.120, and Mo.Rev.Stat §411.180.
- Children and Youth Records — Mo.Rev.Stat. §191.737, Mo.Rev.Stat §210.150, Mo.Rev.Stat § 210.152, Mo.Rev.Stat §211.321, and Mo.Rev.Stat §219.061.
- Judicial Records — Mo.Rev.Stat §211.321, Mo.Rev.Stat. §211.321.6, Mo.Rev.Stat §211.171.6, Mo.Rev.Stat §453.121, Mo.Rev.Stat §487.005, and Mo.Rev.Stat §487.070.
Where Can You Get Missouri Public Records?
The Custodian of Records office oversees and processes all requests the public makes for access to various public agency records.
All public record requests must be made in writing or online. To make an online request, you can use the Public Records Center. It will guide you through the whole process.
Alternatively, you can mail your request to the following address by providing the information found on the Public Records Request Form:
Missouri State Highway Patrol
Attn: Custodian of Records
Post Office Box 1408 (1510 East Elm St.)
Custodian of Records Office at the
Missouri State Highway Patrol
1510 East Elm St.
Jefferson City, MO
Are There Any Fees Associated With Requesting Public Records?
Yes, there are fees associated with requesting public records. However, under the Missouri Sunshine Law, the fees are not able to exceed the actual cost of labor when searches are made as efficiently as possible, as stated under section 32.091. Copying of the documents is also charged based on the actual cost of labor and materials.
The copy fees will not be over $0.10 per page for a hard paper copy no bigger than nine by fourteen inches. The hourly fee for the copy time won’t go beyond the standard hourly rate of pay for the administrative staff of the particular public agency.
As a requester, you are legally allowed to ask the agency for a cost estimation before you request the records.
Furthermore, your fees may be waived if it is proven to be in the public interest to do so. This only happens if you can prove that your request will heavily contribute to public understanding.
Court Records in Missouri
Wondering how court records in Missouri work? Let’s take a look at the overall structure of the court record system and the function of each type of court in the state.
In Missouri, the Supreme Court is the highest legal authority. This court can assess any outcome and decision made by the Court of Appeals. This means that, regardless of the question or conflict, the Supreme Court has a right to give its opinion and make decisions.
The Court of Appeals holds a similar function to the lower courts in the state. This court can review the decisions made when an appeal is made.
The aforementioned lower courts are made up of 11 trial/superior courts situated throughout the 114 Missouri counties.
The types of cases dealt with by each type of court in Missouri are as follows:
- Supreme Court — Appeals by right in a capacity for criminal, etc. agencies, appeals by permission and interlocutory appeals, hearings for cases involving the death penalty, original proceedings for bar and judiciary
- Court of Appeals — Appeals for writ applications, interlocutory appeals, appeals made by criminal, admin, and civil agencies
- Circuit Court — Generally only deals with jury trials
- Municipal Court — Deals with jury trials for Springfield Municipality (traffic and other violations)
Additional Information on The Courts in Missouri
The Missouri Supreme Court is situated in Jefferson City and was established in 1820. Currently, it has 7 serving judges.
The Court of Appeals has three representatives in three districts, including:
- Western District, Kansas City — 11 judges
- Eastern District, St. Louis — 14 judges
- Southern District, Springfield — 7 judges
The Circuit Courts are placed in each county. However, there is an extra one in the independent city called St. Louis.
Are Court Records Public Information?
In 1961, the Missouri Public Records Law came into play which made court records available to the public. However, some documents may be sealed under specific circumstances.
Any Missouri court holds the right to seal a record if there is “compelling justification” to do so. To seal a record, the court has to issue an order and be able to define the threats to important values for the seal to be granted.
Where Can You Get Copies of Court Records?
Ideally, you need to go to the courthouse where the case is held and ask for the records (in writing) from the clerk. Usually, there is a special request form you need to complete when you get there.
The Missouri Courts site has a list of all locations, websites, phone numbers, and extra information about the courts that are operating in the state.
However, you might be able to request and access court records on Case.net. This is Missouri’s case management system (just bear in mind that it’s automated). Not all records will be available here according to the Court Operating Rule 2.04.
In normal situations, you’ll be able to access dockets, orders of the court, decisions, evidence, transcripts, and pleadings, However, some or all of this information may be exempt from public disclosure under Mo.Ann.Stat §§211.321, 630.14.
If the court denies access to the records you’re requesting, you can intervene in the case in order to access the records. However, it’s advisable to seek legal assistance to ensure you don’t overstep boundaries.
Criminal Records in Missouri
The Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the Missouri State Highway Patrol oversees the compiling, completing, maintaining, destroying, and accessing of criminal records in the state. This department also oversees the MACHS — Missouri Automated Criminal History Site.
The information on these records is obtained by various criminal justice agencies, including information relating to the following:
- Formal charges
- Correctional supervision
- Identifiable descriptions
Criminal History Search
Missouri offers criminal history searches in two formats — name-based/identifier-based and fingerprint-based.
If you are wanting to conduct either search type via mail, you will have to wait between four to six weeks. Plus, you should expect to pay $14.00 for a name-based search and $20.00 for a fingerprint search. You’ll also need to pay $2.00 for a notary letter if wanted. The completed request form and fee will then be sent to the following address:
Missouri State Highway Patrol
Criminal Justice Information Services Division
Post Office Box 9500
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Here, you can conduct a criminal history check by inputting an individual’s name. You’ll have to pay $14.00 and a convenience fee by credit card.
You’ll need to schedule a fingerprint appointment through IDEMIA (the vendor responsible for all fingerprint-based criminal checks in the state). The vendor uses electronic image capturing to transmit your fingerprints into the MSHP. It will cost $28.50 when using the IDEMIA service, and you can either use the toll-free number, (844)543-9712 to make an appointment or use the MACHS portal.
How Long Does It Take to Check a Criminal History Record in Missouri?
You should expect to wait for between seven to ten business days to receive your criminal history record results (especially when performing a fingerprint check).
How Long Will Arrest Information Stay On a Record?
To remove arrest information from your record, you have to apply for expungement at the Circuit Court of the county you were arrested in. For misdemeanor convictions and arrests, you have to wait for three years before applying. But, if your arrest concluded in a felony conviction, you have to wait seven years.
The Mo.Rev.Stat §610.140 defines all the offenses that are never eligible for expungement. These include:
- Domestic assault
- Class A violence
- Sex offending
- Domestic assault
According to this law, you can expunge two misdemeanors and one felony in your lifetime.
Under Mo.Rev.Stat §610.105, your arrest record might be eligible for closure (i.e. hidden from the public eye) if one of the below applies:
- Charges were dismissed
- Sentence was suspended
- You weren’t found guilty
- Charges were dropped
If this applies to your situation, it should be closed automatically by the courthouse that dealt with your arrest.
Warrant Records Search
Anyone can search warrant records as they are public under the Missouri Sunshine Law. While there are many websites that allow you to search for these documents, it’s best to go through the proper channels.
Search by County
If you know the county that issued the warrant, you can contact the local sheriff’s office to ask for the records. Counties such as Springfield, Cass, and Boone all have active warrant lists online. You’ll be able to find the details of the offense and the age of the person arrested. You can find a list of contact information for the courthouses and sheriffs in each county by clicking here.
For those who don’t know the county, you can use the Case.net system mentioned in a previous section to search for warrant records by inputting their last name and navigating to “docket entries”.
How to Request Warrant Records from Law Enforcement in Missouri
Alternatively, you can request warrant records from law enforcement in Missouri. This is an in-person route though which isn’t for everyone.
All you need to do is visit your local law enforcement office and ask them to look up somebody’s name. Each office has access to a plethora of databases that give a detailed overview of anybody with an outstanding warrant.
It is worth keeping in mind that if you are looking up your own information at a law enforcement office and you do have a warrant out for you, the staff will be able to arrest you there and then.
The Difference Between an Arrest Warrant and an Arrest Record
An arrest warrant is a document that has been put forth by a magistrate or judge that gives police the right to arrest someone who is suspected of a crime.
Within the arrest warrant, law enforcement may be able to search and take possession of the person’s property.
An arrest record, on the other hand, is a document of an arrest. It is made after an arrest has already happened.
Judges or magistrates can’t issue an arrest warrant without an accurate cause for an arrest to be made. The so-called cause needs to be backed up by sworn testimony or an affidavit that has to give clear information supporting the necessity of an arrest.
Any arrest warrant needs to specify a single person for arrest and never a whole group or an estimated description of the suspect.
We have compiled a simple overview of Missouri’s arrest below, alongside some crime statistics for your perusing. All the statistics have been sought from the FBI database. It’s worth familiarizing yourself with this before moving on.
- In the state of Missouri, there are roughly 16,000 registered sex offenders.
- In 2018, 331 law enforcement entities reported 197,865 arrests in total in the state.
- Of the 197,865 arrests in the state, 15,560 of them were minors (i.e. people under 18 years old).
- Drug abuse violations were the number one cause of all the arrests made in the year 2018. This accounted for almost 33,000 in Missouri.
What Do Arrest Records in Missouri Show?
Arrest records in Missouri show the following information:
- The alleged crime committed by the person arrest or the reason for the arrest of said person
- The date and time of the arrest
- The place of the arrest
- The person’s identifying information — This includes their date of birth, gender, and name.
- The jail where the person was taken to
- The name of the arresting officer
- The issuer of the warrant that made the arrest possible
The Difference Between an Arrest Record and a Criminal Record
When compared to an arrest record, a criminal record is simply a more detailed document on the person’s entire criminal background. This generally includes any third-party complaints, dropped cases, arrests, arrest warrants, and convictions.
What Are Public Arrest Records?
When an arrest is made, a law enforcement body will produce a report of the arrest stating the following:
- Details of the incident
- Personal information of the person arrested
- Additional information about the person’s criminal background (occasionally)
Generally speaking, this public arrest record plays a large part in any trial that comes afterward. The document might end up displaying on someone’s public record for a while, even if they were never actually convicted for the crime.
What Shows Up On a Public Arrest Record?
This information tends to be included on a public arrest record:
- Personal Information — name, age, phone number, address, social security number, other names, date of birth, other contact information
- Incident Description — chronological account of the crime made by the arresting officer, first-hand witness statements, information given by any victims
- Physical Person Description — tattoos, height, weight, race, sex, birthmarks, scars
- Arrest date and location
- Criminal Charges — if any
- Crime Classification — whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony
- Court date
- Any police interrogation details
All charges will appear on an arrest record in Missouri. They are usually split into three categories as stated below:
- Infraction — minor law violation. It’s typically dealt with at the state level and the punishment can be a written warning or a fine. This includes public nuisance offenses and littering.
- Misdemeanor — more serious than an infraction but less than a felony. Usually, it’s punishable by an imprisonment term of less than a year or probation. You probably won’t go to a federal or state prison. Instead, you’ll stay in the local/county jail. Examples include drug abuse and petty theft.
- Felony — most serious crime. Generally, this results in at least a year in state or federal prison. It can limit employment chances. Examples include arson and murder.
Who Is Able to Access Arrest Records?
Anyone can access arrest records! In Missouri, this type of document is classified as a public record. So, a copy can be given to anyone who requests it from a law enforcement agency. Plus, it is likely to come up on background checks conducted by employers.
Physical copies of these records are held at the agency that made the arrest. Generally, this will be a county sheriff’s office or the local police station. At times, they’ll be held in the archive of the circuit court or Missouri’s governmental body. The central center for all this state’s criminal information, however, is the MSHP Criminal Justice Information Services Division.
Are There Any Restrictions On Arrest Record Access in Missouri?
Missouri laws are very liberal, meaning that the state places as few restrictions as possible on the access of records such as arrest documents.
However, if the reports are being used in an ongoing investigation, they may be restricted until the investigation is closed or complete.
How Can You Search for Arrest Records in Missouri?
You can search online for arrest records (and other criminal information) using the MACHS (Missouri Automated Criminal History Site) ran by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Criminal Justice Information Division.
You will have to pay a fee to use the service but it allows you to perform a name-based search of all the open records stored in the database.
To begin, you’ll need to create an account. However, it’s worth noting the following information before you start:
- You’ll need to know the arrestee’s full name and either their social security number or their date of birth.
- You’ll have to pay $14 per name-based search.
- After the search, you can view the information for 30 days. Within this timeframe, you can print or save the document to your computer.
Missouri Inmate Records
Missouri has 117 jails and 22 state prisons across all its counties and the independent city. The number of prisoners as of the end of 2018 in 22 state prisons was 30,369. The rate of incarceration, according to the National Institute of Corrections is 495 per 100,000 people in Missouri.
What’s On An Inmate Record in Missouri?
Every state varies on what information it shows on an inmate’s record. In Missouri, you can acquire information on currently incarcerated people, those who’re under post-incarceration supervision, and those who’ve been discharged.
However, you will not be able to find information on inmates who’ve been sent to Missouri under an interstate compact clause.
The specific information you can find on inmate records in Missouri is as follows:
- Name and any aliases
- DOC (Department of Corrections) ID
- Sentence summary
- Active/completed offenses
Where Can You Find Missouri Inmate Records?
On the Missouri Department of Corrections (shortened to MODOC), you can use the Offender Search service to find inmate records online.
You will need to know either the first name or last name of the inmate you are searching for. Alternatively, you can use their DOC ID number for a 100% accurate search.
Using this service, you can find inmate records on active offenders, probationers, and those on parole. However, discharged offenders will not show up.
For those of you who want additional information regarding inmate and jail records, you’ll need to send an email to the Department’s Constituent Services Office. The email address is email@example.com.
Sex Offender Information in Missouri
Missouri has a sex offender database that contains the names of all the registered sex offenders who live in the state. The details of the offenses can also be found on this list.
Local law enforcement entities register the sex offenders in the locality (i.e. the towns, cities, or counties of Missouri). However, it’s the state’s Highway Patrol that compiles and holds the Missouri Sex Offender Registry.
You can visit the above registry to search for sex offenders who live, work, or go to school anywhere in the state. However, you will need to contact the offender’s County Sheriff’s Office if you’re after additional information.
Vital Records in Missouri
Not all vital records (birth certificates, death certificates, divorce papers, etc.) in Missouri are open to the public. However, if you are an eligible individual, you can access these closed documents under the Missouri Public Records Law in certain situations. In this case, eligible people are family members, legal reps, and court officers.
To request copies of vital records, you will need to fill out an Application for Vital Record form and send it to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. You can either mail it or deliver it in person.
The form will ask for the following information:
- Full name
- Daytime number
- Date and location of the event
- Relationship with the person named on the record
- Purpose of copies
- Father’s name (sometimes)
- Mother’s name (sometimes)
Business and Licensing Records in Missouri
Business and corporate records are held and maintained by the Missouri Secretary of State Business Services Division. Even nonprofit companies have to file documents through this avenue.
You can use the Business Entity Search to search for public business records. You’ll need to enter either the officer’s name, charter number, business name, or the agent’s name.
Licensing records for the majority of professions including massage therapists, cosmetologists, and architects are dealt with by the Missouri Division of Professional Regulation. The Missouri Bar Association, on the other hand, deals with attorney’s licenses.
You can use the licensee search to find these records. You’ll have to enter the profession, license number, country, or person’s name to find the right documents.
Historical Records in Missouri
The Missouri State Archives is the central repository for all records of historic value. They’re open to the public for viewing and can be used for the appreciation of the state’s history and studying. Below, you can find some useful quick links:
- State Censuses (1840 to 1876)
- Territorial Census
- State Auditors
- The Missouri Mormon War
- Lewis and Clark Expedition
Property and Tax Records in Missouri
In Missouri, you need to seek answers to all property and tax record-related questions to the State of Missouri State Tax Commission.
Since everything is handled locally, you have to be sure that you contact your local county assessor/collector. Click here to find a complete listing of collectors in Missouri and here for other tax information.
Driving Records in Missouri
To access personal information contained on driving records in Missouri, you have to obtain permission from the record holder or be exempt under DPPA.