Public records refer to information that a government agency or body creates, receives, maintains, or stores. Examples of public records include criminal records, driving records, property tax records, vital records, and historical records. Public records can be emails, maps, written communication, photos, or electronic files; the physical form of the record does not matter.
Local, state, and federal government agencies are required to comply with state and federal law when processing public records requests. For example, agencies must respond to a request within a certain timeframe and can only charge a certain amount for their services.
You are able to request public records in person, by email, phone, postal mail, or online. While public records are open and available for inspection under the law, there are exceptions, fees, and other considerations that can make the process seem difficult. That’s why we have written this comprehensive article about public records in New Hampshire, beginning with the federal and state laws that define public records.
Which federal laws apply to public records in the United States?
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) into law in 1966. The FOIA was designed to complement a democratic society by providing an open and accessible government for all citizens.
According to the FOIA, any records created, stored, or maintained by any federal government agency are considered open and available for the public to inspect. However, there are nine exemptions listed in the FOIA:
- National security information
- A federal agency’s internal personnel rules and procedures
- Information that cannot be disclosed due to another federal law
- Confidential or privileged commercial or financial information, or any trade secrets
- Deliberative process privilege, attorney work-product privilege, attorney-client privilege, or any other privileged communications that occur within or between agencies
- Any information that would invade another individual’s personal privacy if disclosed
- Information assembled for law enforcement that could impede a person’s right to a fair trial, interfere with enforcement proceedings, release a confidential source’s identity, disclose law enforcement prosecutions or investigations, endanger a person’s physical life or safety, or could create an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
- Information regarding how the government supervises financial institutions
- Geological data about wells
If a public records request is denied, the agency must provide the requestor with a specific exemption that prohibits the release of the information.
How does New Hampshire law define public records?
New Hampshire’s Right to Know Law, RSA Chapter 91-A defines how the state manages public records.
New Hampshire statute defines “governmental records” as information created, received, or stored by any public agency or body. Governmental records, also referred to as public records in New Hampshire statute, can be any written communication or other information, whether in electronic, paper, or any other physical forms.
Public agencies must provide governmental records to a requester to inspect and copy within five business days. If the agency denies or delays the request, it must provide a written statement citing the specific exemption that the denial is based upon or explain the reason for the delay and when the request will be ready.
A government agency can charge a fee for copies made if using a computer or other device that is maintained for use by that agency. The agency can only charge the actual cost to make the copies.
New Hampshire does not require a public body or agency to cross-reference, compile, and put together any information into a form if it does not already exist within that body or agency.
There are exemptions to the New Hampshire FOIA. The following records are not public information:
- Petit and grand jury records
- Master jury lists
- Parole and pardon board records
- Certain school records
- Records concerning internal personnel practices
- Confidential, financial, or commercial information
- Scoring keys, test questions, and other examination information used when giving an academic exam, licensing exam, or an employment exam
- Teacher certification records
- Medical records
- Welfare records
- Library records
- Emergency preparation plans
- Audio and video recordings captured by a law enforcement officer wearing a body camera unless otherwise exempted
- Records concerning information technology systems, such as vulnerability assessments and cybersecurity plans
The following section provides an overview of New Hampshire’s court system with a look into how courts are structured, what public records are accessible to the public, and how to search for court records.
New Hampshire’s only appellate court, the Supreme Court, is located in Concord and consists of four associate justices and one chief justice. The Governor nominates members of the Supreme Court, with the Executive Council confirming. Supreme Court members serve lifetime terms or until they turn seventy.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court has jurisdiction over appeals from trial courts and from certain administrative agencies. It al’s original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, habeas corpus, prohibition, and other writs.
The Supreme Court also interprets state constitutions, federal constitutions, case law, and statutes. It is responsible for correction occurring in trial court proceedings and acts as the administrator for the state’s court system.
Once the Supreme Court has reviewed a case, it will decide if an oral argument should be scheduled. If so, the case will be heard by a three-justice panel (3JX) or a full court.
3JX panels typically deal with fewer issues and deliver short written decisions within two minutes of an oral argument. The decision must be unanimous.
A full court provides a written opinion for explanatory order after hearing an oral argument. The Supreme Court is also responsible for the following judicial duties:
- The discipline of lawyers and judges with complaints of misconduct via an independent Judicial Conduct Committee.
- Extensive, non-judicial administration duties such as finance and personnel. The Administrative Office of the Courts assists with these tasks.
The New Hampshire Administrative Council, established by the Supreme Court, promotes successful communication within the judicial branch. The council reviews and discusses policies, administrative tasks, and other issues concerning the judicial branch. A Supreme Court justice acts as the liaison between the court and the council.
Office of General Counsel
The Office of General Counsel is the link between the Judicial Branch and state government branches that are considered coequal. The office oversees all of the Judicial Branch’s education programs and legal services and provides legal opinions on all legislative and financial concerns.
- Felony criminal jury trials
- Legal and medical malpractice claims
- Personal injuries
- Disputes concerning property lines
- Zoning and planning board appeals
The Business Court, a division of the Superior Court, has jurisdiction over corporate litigation that is considered complex.
The New Hampshire Circuit Court, established in 2011, includes the District, Family, and Probate Divisions.
Circuit Court District Division
The New Hampshire Circuit Courts District Division, made up of 32 courts, is responsible for the following:
- Misdemeanor and violation level offenses (including motor vehicle matters)
- Small claims
- Landlord-tenant cases
- Stalking cases
- Certain civil cases
Circuit Court Probate Division
The Circuit Court Probate Division has jurisdiction over various types of matters, such as trusts, estates, wills, involuntary commitment proceedings, name changes, guardianships, adoptions, name changes, and real estate partitions. Probate Judges rule on the types of cases.
Contested matters go through the circuit court probate divisions mediation program to be resolved. There is no cost to the parties in these settlements.
The state of New Hampshire offers two Service Centers questions regarding the courts.
Circuit Court Family Division
There are 28 courts within the Circuit Court Family Division across ten counties: Coos, Belknap, Merrimack, Carroll, Cheshire, Grafton, Sullivan, Hillsborough, Strafford, and Rockingham.
Family Division cases include the following:
- Neglect and abuse cases
- Certain adoptions
- Child support
- Children in need of services
- Parent and divorce cases
- Domestic violence petitions
- Guardianship of minors
- Juvenile delinquency
- Termination of Parental Rights
Drug and Mental Health Courts
New Hampshire provides offenders with mental health or substance abuse diagnoses specialty court programs and treatment services
The Circuit and Superior courts’ treatment programs work to protect public safety and decrease recidivism by addressing mental health and substance abuse diagnoses in offenders.
Are court records public information?
The Judicial Branch of New Hampshire, under the state and federal laws, allows the public to access court records. However, the state must consider non-disclosure interests and keep certain court records confidential.
Only the court and the clerk’s staff can access confidential court records, which must be kept separately from publicly available records.
Unless otherwise ordered by the court, the following types of court records are not available for the public to inspect:
- Juvenile cases, such as neglect and abuse cases, delinquency, and adoption
- Denied or pending application for arrest or search warrants
- Grand jury records
- Wiretap applications Any other record required by statute, order, or rule to be kept confidential
If the court orders a record to be sealed, it is considered confidential and the public cannot access it.
Search New Hampshire Court Records
You can search New Hampshire court records by completing the following steps:
- Fill out the appropriate Record Search Request form:
- You will need to complete one form per court that you are requesting records from.
- Fees are noted on the applications for your convenience. If you fill out the form online, the fees will be calculated for you.
- Payment options: you can pay by check (make your check out to NHJB Central Processing Center) or by credit card (Visa, Mastercard, or Discover)
- Mail your form(s) and payment to the New Hampshire Judicial Branch Administrative Offices, Attention: Central Processing Center, 1 Granite Place, Suite N400, Concord, New Hampshire, 03301
- For urgent requests, you can deliver the completed form in person at the New Hampshire Judicial Branch Administrative Offices in Concord. You can visit the office Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm. Submit your order by noon to receive your order by the next day.
The following individuals or parties generally are not required to pay a fee for court records:
- Law Enforcement, including local and state police departments)
- Military recruiters
- Public Defenders, prosecutors, and contract attorneys
- Any individual with a case number
- Individuals requesting court records if they were part of a party involved in the case
Criminal records in New Hampshire include felony and misdemeanor arrests, sentences, convictions, probation, parole, and warrant information for offenders processed through the state’s court system. New Hampshire also provides access to registered sex offenders databases and inmate information.
Various government agencies in New Hampshire are responsible for maintaining the state’s criminal records. This section provides information regarding the following types of criminal records, the agency responsible for them, and how to search for them:
- Sex offenders
We will start with arrest records.
Based on the 2019 FBI Crime Data Explorer, New Hampshire arrest statistics were as follows:
- 43,963 arrests in 2019
- 6,211 arrests for crimes against persons (murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, certain sex offenses, assault, human trafficking, etc.)
- 5,998 arrests for property crimes (offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, vandalism, fraud, forgery and counterfeiting, embezzlement, arson, etc.)
- 31,754 arrests for crimes against society (drug abuse violations, driving under the influence, drunkenness, disorderly conduct, weapons violations, prostitution, gambling, family and children vagrancy, etc.)
- There were 152.5 violent crimes per 100,000 people in New Hampshire, compared to 379.4 per 100,000 people in the US.
The New Hampshire State Police Criminal Records Unit is responsible for collecting, storing, and distributing Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) concerning criminal arrests and dispositions of offenders.
The Criminal Records Unit’s database, the Central Repository, contains applicant and criminal fingerprint information from the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). Criminal History Record Information is kept in the Central Repository.
CHRI contains conviction and non-conviction information, which is used for both criminal and non-criminal justice purposes. For example, non-criminal justice purposes would be things like housing, employment, or licensing. On the other hand, law enforcement personnel will look at both conviction and non-conviction information.
Under New Hampshire law, anyone can pay a fee to access a public criminal conviction history.
Only the record subject or law enforcement personnel can access Confidential Criminal History Information (CCHI), which includes non-conviction data.
New Hampshire Criminal History Record Information Requests
You can request criminal history record information in one of the following ways:
In-person: You can request criminal history information at the public counter. The address is 33 Hazen Drive, Room 106 in Concord. You will need to complete the Criminal History Record Information Release Authorization Form, provide a valid photo ID, and pay the fee of $25.00. You can pay by check, cash, money order, Visa, Mastercard, or Discover. Checks should be made out to the State of NH.
By mail: You can request one of the following by mail: your own full record, which is confidential (must include a Justice of the Peace or Notary Public signature with the seal and date), or a release to a third party (this version does not have to be notarized).
You will need to complete the Criminal History Record Information Release Authorization Form and include the payment of $25.00. You can pay by check, cash, or money order. No credit cards are accepted with mail-in requests. Checks should be made out to the State of NH.
If fingerprints were included, FBI results will include a letter showing that there is a record or a letter with a red stamp declaring “FBI NO RECORD.”
Certain individuals are eligible for reduced fees when requesting Criminal History Record Information. You can find more details here.
Required NH/FBI CHRI for Non-Criminal Justice Purposes
According to certain New Hampshire state laws, an NH/FBI CHRI record check is required, which includes fingerprinting.
There are two ways to have your fingerprints taken. You can use a fingerprint card or have your fingerprints digitally captured using a LiveScan device.
Government agencies are responsible for initiating criminal background checks for applicants that require an NH/FBI CHRI. Applicants must fill out the NH CHRI request form, pay $48.25 (volunteers pay $21.25), and either have their fingerprints digitally captured or complete a fingerprint card. Checks should be made out to NH State Police.
The government agency is then responsible for sending in the forms and payment to the State Police Criminal Records Unit. The Criminal Records Unit will then process the NH/FBI CHRI and send the results to the government agency.
The following state agencies require both an NH and FBI CHRI check:
- Allied Health Professionals
- Athletic Trainers
- Recreational Therapists
- Physical Therapists
- Genetic Counselors
- Occupational Therapists
- Speech-Language Therapists
- Respiratory Care Specialists
- Adoptive Parents
- Alcohol and Drug Use Professionals
- Allied Health Professionals
- Banking Department
- Banking Department Employees
- Board of Dental Examiners
- Board of Medicine
- Board of Mental Health
- Board of Nursing
- Child Day Care & Institutions
- Consumer Reporting Agencies
- County Employees
- Credit Unions
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Safety
- Driver’s Education Instructors within the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- Emergency Medical Service Provider Licensing – Bureau of Emergency Medical Services
- Employees – Division/Bureau specific
- Games of Chance Facility License
- Hawker & Peddlers License
- IRS Publication 1075
- License Exempt Child Care
- Licensing of Game Operators
- Loans, Debts, Sales
- Lottery Commission and Charitable Gaming Commission
- Medical Technicians
- Municipal Employees/Volunteers
- Naturopathic Health Care
- New Foster Parents
- New Hampshire Department of Revenue
- NH Medicaid Program
- Nursing Home Administrators
- Office of Professional Licensure and Certification
- Real Estate Appraisers
- Serve America Act Volunteers
- TANF Child Care
- Therapeutic Cannabis Program
You can find more information regarding CHRI here.
New Hampshire Inmate Records
The New Hampshire Department of Corrections (NHDOC) is responsible for maintaining the state’s inmate records. Inmates are housed in the following New Hampshire correctional facilities, prisons, and transitional housing units:
- Calumet House Transitional Housing Unit
- North End Transitional Housing Unit
- Corrections Transitional Work Center
- NH Correctional Facility for Women
- NH State Prison for Men
- Shea Farm Transitional Housing Unit
- Northern NH Correctional Facility
Search Inmate Records Online
Inmate records in New Hampshire are open for the public to inspect under New Hampshire’s Right to Know Law RSA 91:A. You can look up inmate records using the New Hampshire DOC Inmate Locator, a database of records found at the DOC Offender Records Office, which is located in Concord, New Hampshire.
New Hampshire inmates with out-of-state sentences, pending consecutive sentences, and technical parole violations may not display an original minimum or maximum release date as this information has not been calculated or because it is not available. Only active sentences will display the original minimum and maximum release dates.
You can search the Inmate Locator database by an offender’s partial or entire first or last name. An inmate search will result in the following information:
- The inmate’s name and age
- The inmate’s ID number
- Sentencing details
- The facility where the inmate is house
- Date of admission
- The date the individual is eligible for parole
- Maximum release date
- Execution date
New Hampshire does not disclose the following information to the public:
- Specific job assignment
- Specific room assignment
- Patient mental health or medical information
- An individual’s disciplinary information
- An individual’s education scores
- Pre-sentence investigation reports (PSIs)
- Parole records
- Information concerning incomplete or ongoing investigations
- An inmate’s date of birth
Sex Offender Information
New Hampshire RSA Chapter 651-B:1 defines a sexual offender as an individual that is required to register for any sexual offense. A sexual offense is described as an individual who is over the age of 18 that commits, attempts to commit, or is an accomplice to the following:
- First-degree murder
- Capital murder
- Sexual assault
- Felonious sexual assault
- Aggravated felonious sexual assault
- Violation of privacy
- A second or subsequent indecent exposure and lewdness offense occurring within a 5-year period
- Any offense where an offender must register according to the law in the jurisdiction where the conviction took place.
- Any other criminal offense that a court determines it is necessary for the offender to register in the interest of the public
Once a court determines if an offender is required to register, the court must classify the tier level the offender should be placed in. There are three tier levels: tier I, tier II, and tier III.
The New Hampshire Department of Safety’s Division of State Police is responsible for maintaining the state’s sex offender registry, which is referred to as the Registration of Criminal Offenders. The database is updated on a weekly basis.
To search the Registration of Criminal Offenders, you can enter any of the following information:
- First name, middle initial, or last name
A search will provide you with the following details:
- Physical description
- Height and weight
- Scars, marks, tattoos, and piercings
- Qualifying offenses
- Adjudication date
- Probation, parole, and supervised release status
There is no charge to search New Hampshire’s Registration of Criminal Offenders.
Government agencies create, maintain, and store documents related to major life events such as births, deaths, marriages, adoptions, and divorces.
Vital records are considered confidential and are not available for the public to inspect. Under New Hampshire RSA 5-C:9, you must have a direct and tangible interest to request any of these documents.
The New Hampshire Division of Vital Records Administration (DVRA) maintains the state’s birth, death, marriage, and divorce records.
DVRA also manages a genealogical research vault that the public can access. The vault contains records dating back to 1640. Marriage, death, and divorce records become open for public inspection if they are older than 50 years. Birth certificates that are more than 100 years old are available for public inspection.
Order Vital Records
You can order New Hampshire vital records by mail, in person, or online.
You will need to complete the Application for a Certified Copy of a Vital Record form to any order the following vital records by mail:
- Marriage/Civil Union
- Divorce/Civil Union Dissolution
You must include a legible copy of your government-issued identification and payment with your application. The fee for the first copy is $15.00. Any additional copies are $10.00 each. Checks are accepted; you can make it out to the Treasurer-State of New Hampshire.
Mail your completed and signed form, payment, and photo ID to the address below:
New Hampshire Department of State
Division of Vital Records Administration
Attn: Certification and Registration
9 Ratification Way
Concord, NH 03301-2455
The Division of Vital Records Administration, along with 234 Town and City Clerks, can issue certified copies of birth, marriage, divorce, death, and civil union certificates to eligible persons and agencies that have a direct and tangible interest in that specific record.
You can typically receive your requested certified vital record the same day unless there are extenuating circumstances.
You will be required to show your government-issued photo identification at the time of your request. The fee for the first copy is $15.00. Any additional copies are $10.00 each. Checks are accepted; you can make it out to the Treasurer-State of New Hampshire. You can also pay by credit card in person.
The state of New Hampshire is not affiliated with any third-party vendors offering vital records services. However, the state does provide information about two vendors that can assist with expedited orders: VitalChek and EB2Gov.
Third-party vendors do require that you submit photo identification and proof of relationship. There are also additional fees associated with using third-party vendors:
- Birth Certificate: $23.00 – $35.50
- Death Certificate: $23.00 – $25.50
- Marriage Certificate: $23.00 – $25.50
- Divorce Certificate: $25.50
For EB2Gov services, there is a $1.50 processing fee and a $0.35 transaction fee per request, in addition to the state’s fees.
New Hampshire Vital Records Information Network Web Query
The New Hampshire Department of State’s Division of Vital Records Administration offers a service called the NHVRINweb, which allows visitors to query the state’s events for birth, marriage, death, and divorce.
You cannot use this site to register or request certified vital records.
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) oversees adoption records. In the state of New Hampshire, all court adoption files are sealed. The public cannot access adoption records unless approved by a court order.
Adoptees that are older than 18 years of age can request a non-certified copy of their birth certificate. Birth parents can choose to file a medical history and contact preference form with the New Hampshire Vital Records Administration. If this was done, the adoptee can also access this information.
The New Hampshire Department of State Corporation Division is responsible for the state’s business records.
You can search for business records via the NH QuickStart database, which will provide you with business filings, statuses, and other details., including the following:
- Business name
- Business ID and type
- Homestate name
- Previous name
- Principal Office Address
- Registered Agent Name
- Expiration Date
- Last Renewal Date
- Business Creation Date
- Date of Formation in Jurisdiction
- Principal Purpose
- NAICS Code
- NAICS Subcode
- Trade Name Information
The New Hampshire Historical Society, established in 1832, offers an extensive collection featuring the state’s past.
If you would like to visit the Historical Society, you can make an appointment by calling 603-228-6688 or sending an email. Make sure to include your name, phone number, address, email, the material you are looking to research, and when you would like to visit. You will receive either a phone call or an email to confirm your visit.
You can also look through the New Hampshire Collection Catalog using the following links:
Property Tax Records
New Hampshire municipalities offer an online property tax kiosk where you can look up information regarding tax bills based on where the property is located.
The New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles maintains the state’s driving records. There are several reasons for requesting a Driver Record Report from the New Hampshire DMV, and you must submit different information depending on the reason to obtain a report.
Request Your Own Motor Vehicles Record Report
To obtain your Driver Record Report, complete and sign the NH MV Record Release Form. Then you can either send in your request in person at a DMV location using the DMV DropBox or send the completed form via postal mail with payment ($15) to the New Hampshire Department of Safety, Attn: DMV/FR Records, 23 Hazen Drive, Concord NH 03305
To Release Your Motor Vehicles Record Report to an Entity or Another Person
To allow a third party to access your driving record, you will need to fill out specific sections on the NH MV Record Release Form. For example, you will have to fill in details regarding who the third party is that will be receiving the record. You are also required to have your signature notarized by a Justice of the Peace or Notary Public.
You can either submit your request in person at a DMV location using the DMV DropBox or mail the completed form with payment ($15) to the New Hampshire Department of Safety, Attn: DMV/FR Records, 23 Hazen Drive, Concord NH 03305
Important note – only the Concord DMV office can process this type of request.
Request Another Person’s Motor Vehicles Record Report
To request another person’s driving record, you will need to fill out specific sections on the NH MV Record Release Form. The record holder must approve the request and include their notarized signature.
You can either submit your request in person at a DMV location using the DMV DropBox, or send in the completed form with payment ($15) via mail to the New Hampshire Department of Safety, Attn: DMV/FR Records, 23 Hazen Drive, Concord NH 03305
Important note – only the Concord DMV office can process this type of request.
Requesting Another Person’s Motor Vehicles Record Report (Second and Third-Party Requests)
If you are an authorized agent of your company or employer and are requesting another person’s driving record, you must complete the Release of Motor Vehicle Records and include a Certificate of Authority. You can only submit this request by using the Drop Box at the Concord DMV office.
What do I do if there is an error with my public records in New Hampshire?
Most government agencies have information on their websites with helpful information about what to do concerning errors with public records. Typically you can find information on a specific page about the record or within the FAQ section.
You can also contact the agency that is responsible for the record directly via phone, email, postal mail, or by visiting in person during business hours.