This document provides all the information needed to access any public records within the legal limits of New York State.
What is The Freedom of Information Act
The U.S government put the Freedom of Information Act of 1967 into place to give the public access to federal records. This law keeps the state’s residents informed of what is going on in their government and their place of residence. Under the guidelines, Federal agencies must provide public records outlined in the FOIA unless classified under one of the government’s exemptions.
These exemptions include but are not limited to records requested that may pertain to personal safety, National Security, Personal Privacy, Etc.
Under the FOIA, you can request any information from any federal agency. The agency, therefore, must provide you with a copy of any documentation legally allowed. The agency, however, is not required to create any new documentation, conduct any type of research, or answer any question that you have pertaining to the information in the documentation.
New York State Records Mission
New York State’s Mission is that documentation of all residents is appropriately collected, taken care of, and preserved correctly, and available to use by any person in the State of New York to gather information regarding the history and cultures while also understanding their rights.
These New York State Record Archives are well maintained and readily accessible to anyone to gather information and insight on the government, businesses, and people in their communities. Doing this will help our state keep records of our history and the events that make our State the well-diverse place it is known today.
How does New York State Law Define Public Records?
The State of New York defines public records as any form of documentation including films, audiotapes, pictures, emails, computer files, photographs, or films connected to the public business of any state agency, whether coming into or going out of the building.
It was in 1974 when New York State adopted the New York Freedom of Information Law. This law was put into place, allowing the public to access all physical documentation or information that New York agencies or Legislature have filed. There have been significant changes made to the New York Freedom of Information Law over the years.
Court Cases Regarding Public Record Changes
The following court cases have helped change and improve the New York Freedom of Information Law over the years.
- 1994 Buffalo News v. Buffalo Enterprise Development Corporation
- 1990 Buffalo News v. Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority
- 2006 COMPS v. Town of Islip
- 1986 Capital Newspapers v. Burns
- 1987 Capital Newspapers v. Whalen
- 1999 Daily Gazette v. Schenectady
- 1979 Fink v. Lefkowitz
- 1980 Kryston v. Board of Education, East Ramapo School District
- 1986 Lucas v. Pastor
- 1994 Muniz v. Roth
- 1989 New York News v. Grinker
- 1995 New York News v. Staten Island
- 2004 Newsday v. State Department of Transportation
- 2005 Perez v. City Univ. of New York
- 1993 Russo v. Nassau Community College
- 1985 Scott, Sardano ;. Pomeranz v Records Access Officer
- 1984 Washington Post v. Insurance Department
- 1980 Westchester Rockland Newspapers v. Kimball
- 1990 Whitehead v. Morgenthau
- 1978 Zaleski v. Hicksville Union Free School District
New York States Public Records Available to the Public
There are 11 types of public records available and accessible to the public upon their request from all federal agencies in New York State, where laws allow.
- Bankruptcies and Liens
- Divorce Records
- Criminal Records
- Civil Judgments
- Birth Records
- Court Records
- Property Records
- Marriage Records
- Jail and Inmate Records
- Police Reports
Where Can You Obtain New York State Public Records?
Thanks to the FOIA guidelines, records can be requested by written mailed requests, email request, Fax, or submit it in person. Depending on which records are received and who is requesting them, there may be a fee associated in order to obtain the records.
Mail a written request to:
Records Access Officer
New York State Department of State
One Commerce Plaza
99 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12231
Email document requests to: dos.dl.FOIL.firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax a written request to (518) 474-4597
Submit a request for records in person:
One Commerce Plaza
99 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12231
11th Floor. Suite 1100.
Enter Suite 1100 from the main entrance on the 11th floor. With the phone provided call to let staff know you are there and the reason for your visit. From there, the Records Access officer staff will take your request and someone from the office will provide you with the assistance needed.
Note: Records have to go through a review and approval process and will not be instantly available to any one requesting.
There are circumstances that may arise causing the office to close including the recent Covid-19 disease, contact the office ahead of time to be sure they are open to the public.
Do You Have to Pay a Fee to Obtain Records?
Yes, there is a fee for obtaining copies of public records. (Sunshine Law Search Fees). These fees are non-negotiable and are due at the time of the records request. Failure to pay any records request fee will result in longer processing time and a longer wait time for documents to be released.
- Each government agency is allowed to set its own fees for photo-copies of public record reports. As long as the copies are on 9×14’ in dimension or less, each page can be charged up to but not exceeding $0.50 per page. (Public Officers Law §87(1))
- For other forms of records, i.e., audiotapes, films, etc., the agency can not charge more than the cost of reproduction unless allowed by law.
- Some states provide a specific fee for a particular type of record that statute governs charges as long as it does not exceed the cost of the actual reproduction of the documents.
- The agency can charge for an employee’s pay hours, obtaining records if it exceeds 2 hours. You may also be charged a fee for outside help creating copies and for the devices to store information needed to reproduce these copies.
Some States provide waivers to impoverished people and inmates, reducing or eliminating fees associated with records requests. Unfortunately, New York is not one of them; this is due to a law put in place in 1990 (Law § 87(1)(b)). Because of this law, all fees are required by everyone before any agency has to release information.
You can obtain court records by requesting them through the Clerk of Court or the County court directly. Each county court system keeps all documentation of any criminal records filed. All court records request and search will require a fee paid via check or money order along with the request form .§ 8019(f)
Where Do You Obtain Court Records?
You will have to request court records through the county clerk’s office from each specific county. You can do this through email, mail, fax, or online direct access applications, depending on the county.
Each county has its own process for conducting records requests and releases. See each county for specific rules.
Criminal Records Search in New York State
Under New York State regulations (9 NYCRR §6050.1), you have the right to access your own criminal history records. You can visit http://ww2.nycourts.gov/apps/chrs/index.shtml to request a criminal history records for every county in New York. You can request criminal records online or by completing and mailing out the form through the postal service.
There is a $95.00 records request fee for each record request. A 3rd party can obtain these records, but the documents released will be based on each request. There are limitations and laws regarding the information that the justice system can release.
- No records will be released involving family, civil, or court case information.
- This system will only name and dates of births with exact information.
- Sealed records, misdemeanor redemptions, and cases reporting non-criminal offenses are subject to non-disclosures.
- Youthful offender cases that are pending will not be available for public access under the Youthful Offender Legislations CPL720.15(1)
- Transferred or removed cases that are related to Family Court are not reported (CPL 725)
- These records are New York state criminal reports and do not include nationwide background checks or records. Nor is it an FBI check
- The NY Statewide CHRS report is not an FBI background search check.
- (Misdemeanor Redemption Policy) states that no misdemeanor occurring ten years before the requested date is allowed to be released unless the assailant commits further criminal acts.
- If a misdemeanor or a felony committed proves criminal background, that might hold grounds for the release of records.
- Cases that have not required a person’s fingerprints, like misdemeanors and minor offenses will not reflect on an individual’s criminal report. These offenses are also not noted on a person’s court reports.
- As of 2019 (CPL 725, Laws regarding marijuana regulations), New York state no longer places marijuana charges on criminal history reports other charges were listen on the same document, including fingerprinting that are still pending or have resulted in a conviction.
The process for requesting criminal records requires information pertaining to the requesting entity and the reason for your request. Once cleared, you will receive the documentation legally allowed.
When requesting criminal records, you must submit who is asking and the purpose for the request. The clerk’s office will review the submissions, and the information legally allowed by the state will then be given.
What Information is in a Criminal History Report?
The New York State Department of Criminal Justice’s job is to keep a record of all criminal history documentation, including criminal and non-criminal reports. The reports requested will only be granted to those with legal access, depending on each request. The information included in these reports are as follows:
- Court Case
- Certificate of Relief
- Missing Person
What is the Process Time For Criminal Records in New York State?
You can access criminal records online or by mail. Once your request is received and your payment is verified, the process starts. If you requested information online, the clerk will review the request, make any amendments needed, and will then email the records to you within one full business day. If there are no records found for the request, the system will notify you immediately.
Request mailed in process within 24 business hours from the date the request was received. Once these records have gone through the process of review and retrieval, you can pick them up in person, mailed to you (you must provide an envelope and postage), or you can have them emailed(Include your correct email address with request)
(Under certain circumstances, including the CoronaVirus, in-person drop-off and pick up may not be available.
How Long Will Arrest Information Stay On a Record?
Arrest information will stay on your record for life; however, depending on the crime may be sealed after a certain amount of time. For anyone with two or fewer misdemeanors or one misdemeanor and one felony with no other arrest after ten years, your records will be sealed.
Rockefeller Drug Law Reform states that anyone who completes a rehabilitation program and has certain convictions can temporarily seep their records.
Who Has Access to Sealed Records?
The only people who have access to sealed records are you, someone you have authorized, an employer if the job requires you to carry a gun, and a parole officer.
What Do Arrest Records in New York Show?
Arrest records in New York State provide legal information regarding an individual’s involvement in a criminal act after police arrest. These records will include information obtained during detention and questioning and all involved while apprehending the suspect in question. Information provided in the documents include:
- Detailed accounts of the crime
- Complete personal information including full name and alias, gender, nationality/ethnicity, and date of birth
- Where and when the crime occurred
- Status of the case
- Who the arresting officer was in the case
- The name and address of the holding facility of the detainee
How Can You Search for Arrest Records in New York?
To obtain your own arrest record, you must request through your local law enforcement facility.
Who Can Access Arrest Records?
The Freedom of Information Laws does not list arrest records as public information. No one can obtain someone else’s arrest records to gain access to the arrest background of another. You can get your own arrest records after being fingerprinted and with identification.
Warrant Records Search In New York State
An arrest warrant is a document signed by a judge allowing law enforcement to apprehend an individual or their property, as long as there’s enough proof to lead any reasonable person to link them to the crime in question. Under the 4th amendment, an arrest warrant is served to a suspected criminal to protect any person from an unlawful arrest.
You can search for criminal records in New York State by clicking on the link.NY State Warrant to search and locate a warrant by county.
How to Request Arrest Warrant Records from Law Enforcement in New York
Active arrest warrants are available for public viewing by contacting your local sheriff’s department, county courthouse, or local public records website.
What is on an Active Arrest Warrant?
The active arrest warrants are allowed for public viewing to aid in capturing and arresting the suspect. The warrant arrest includes information and identifying descriptions giving the public information on who to report. Information on an active arrest warrant is as follows:
- Last known address
- General description
- The date the warrant was issued
- The warrant number
- The reason for the warrant
- What is a Bench Warrant?
What is a Bench Warrant?
A bench warrant is an active warrant signed by a judge giving police the right to apprehend a person who has failed to show for their court date. You can access a bench warrant in the same way as an arrest warrant.
New York Inmate Records
New York State Inmate Records are available to the public and can be found in the New York State Look Up database. Any resident can search this database by name, date of birth, or a combination of the two. Or you can search through them with a New York State Department ID Number (DIN) or a New York State ID Number (NYSID). The NYSID is used for criminal justice only.
What’s On An Inmate Record in New York?
In New York, an inmate record includes all of the information pertaining to the inmate and the crime committed, Including:
- Age, Name, Date of Birth, Ethnicity, Sex
- Department Identification Number (DIN)
- Custody Status
- Housing/Releasing Facility
- Latest Released Date
- Crimes of Conviction
- Sentence Terms and Release Dates
What is on a Parolee Record
New York State offers a parolee look-up to the public through the New York State parolee online website https://publicapps.doccs.ny.gov/ParoleeLookup/Default?idx=0. This information is available to everyone, and there is no fee required to obtain the record. The information available through this site includes:
- Date of Birth
- Release to Parole Supervision Date
- Prole Status
- Senior parole officer
- Parole Officer
- Office Address
- Office Phone Number
- Crime of Conviction
Sex Offender Information in New York
In 1996 the New York State Sex Offenders Registration Act was put into place, creating a data bank listing all offenders convicted of a sexual crime.
As of January 21, 1991, any person who was charged and convicted of a sexual offense and incarcerated or on parole or probation has to register with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services once they return to the community.
Every sex offender convicted of a sexual crime in another state will have to register once taking up residence in New York. Any sex offender currently registered in New York moves to a new state they must register in that state within ten business days of the move by law.
You can access the New York State Public Registry of Sex Offenders with this link: https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/SomsSUBDirectory/search_index.jsp%20. There are only level 2 and level 3 offenders listed on the online registry. To obtain information regarding a level one offender, you must contact the New York State Division of Criminal Justice at 1-800-262-3257.
What is Information is on the Sex Offender Registration in New York State
The Sex Offenders Registration is used to monitor and track sexual offenders after they have served their sentence and released back into the public. This registration’s intended purpose is to inform a community of the offender’s criminal charges and give them information regarding the assailant’s background and current location. Information provided to the public in this registration includes:
- Name (full name including any aliases)
- Addresses of home and work
- Description of crime committed
- Date, the offender, was convicted
- Location where the offender was convicted
- Current photograph (updated every three years for levels 1 and 2 offenders, every year for level 3.)
- Description of every vehicle the offender owns or operates
- Copy of the offender’s driver’s license
- Copy of the offender’s license plate number
- Offenders date of birth
- Email address and social media screen names
- Copy of Passport
- Details of physical appearances such as tattoos, scars, etc
Vital Records in New York
New York State Considers Vital Records as being information that documents any important life events. These events include birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, and divorce licenses.
Effective as of January 15, 2020, anyone adoptees ages 18 years of age or older can request access to their birth certificate by applying for their pre-adoption birth certificate here https://www.health.ny.gov/vital_records/preadoption.htm.
How to Request Vital Records in New York
Anyone who wants to access a vital record from New York State can do so online by visiting https://www.health.ny.gov/vital_records/. The fees for obtaining these records are as follows:
- Online/phone- $45 + $8 processing fee per transaction
- Walk-mail-inrs- $35
- Mail orders-$30
Address for mail-in orders:
New York State Department of Health
Vital Records Certification Unit
P.O. Box 2602
Albany, NY 12220-2602
When mailing in a request, provide a check or money order for payment.
Walk-ins: Call your local municipality for protocol regarding walk-in appointments.
Business and Licensing Records in New York
The Department of State Division of Corporation, State Records, and UCC handles the documentation and files that are vital to all businesses and the government, such as local laws, certification of incorporations, and oaths of office. Other business this department’s handles are as follows:
- EIN/Tax ID Numbers
- Business Corporation Formation
- Benefit Corporation Formation
- Limited Liability Company Formation
- Certificates of Status
- Limited Partnership Formation
- Certificate of Assumed Name
- Notice of Claim and Certificate of Designation
- Service of Notice of Claim
- Copies of Documents
- Oath/Affirmation of State Employees and
- Dissolution of Business Corporations
- Name Availability
- Not-for-Profit Corporation Formation
- Service Mark Registration
- Forms ; Fees for commercial codes
- Trademark Registration
- Financial reporting filed with the Department of State for Charitable orgnizations.
- Condominium Declarations
How do I obtain copies of documents filed with the Division of Corporations?
You may obtain copies of any documents by written request to:
New York State Department of State, Division of Corporations.
One Commerce Plaza
99 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12231.
Your written request should include the following:
- Entire name of the business or corporation
- Date of formation
- Documents you are requesting
- Request for plain copies ($5.00 fee) or certified copies ($10.00 fee)
- Address to mail the records
All records requests are made by mailed-in, written request. You cannot make a request online, via email or phone, or in person.
Bankruptcy Records in New York State
Bankruptcy cases are available for the public to access unless officials have sealed these records. The information regarding the bankruptcy procedures falls under the laws given through FOIA, making it necessary for public knowledge.
How to Request Bankruptcy Records in New York State
Bankruptcy records are not available for request until 90 days after the court has filed the transcripts. Once the waiting period is over, you can request the transcripts through an appointed list of transcribers provided to you by the courts. You can find the list of transcribers in this link. https://www.nysb.uscourts.gov/transcription-services.
After you have requested the transcripts, the transcribers will contact the court to obtain the documents. They will then contact you regarding the information available and the fee for them to release the documents.
You do not contact the court directly for a transcript request. You also are not able to request partial documentation; you must order the entire hearing.
Property Records in New York State
Property records are public records in the State of New York. People have access to information such as your property’s assets, the purchase price of the property, and tax information regarding your property.
To request these public records visit this site: https://www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/default.htm.
Historical Records in New York
New York State defines historical records as any type of documentation that has recorded information regarding the past. This information can include birth and death records, census information, photographs, newspapers, etc. There are laws surrounding the access of specific historical records depending on the information you are trying to obtain.
Genealogy Records in New York State
You can access genealogy records for New York State through the New York State Department of Health. The records accessible to the public through this site are as follows:
- Birth Certificates: Birth certificates are accessible to the public if the owner is known to be deceased and the certificate has been on file with the state for at least 75 years.
- Death certificates: Death certificates are available to the public if they have been on record for at least 50 years.
- Marriage Certificates: Marriage certificates are available to the public only if it has been on file for more than 50 years and both spouses are deceased.
Can the Year Restrictions be Waived?
You can have the restrictions waived if you are a direct descendant of the person mentioned in the documents, including a child, grandchild, great-grandchild, etc.
In order to gain access to this information, you must provide:
- Proof of your relationship to the individual for which you are requesting documentation.
- Proof of death if you are requesting a birth certificate.
- Proof of death for both spouses if you are requesting a marriage certificate.
Are There Fees Associated with Genealogy Records Requests?
Yes, You do have to pay for a copy of the documentation you are requesting. Each record requires a payment per copy, which means if you wanted to purchase a birth certificate and a death certificate for the same person, you would still have to pay both fees.
The fees associated with genealogy records are as follows:
|1 to 3 years old||$22.00|
|4 to 10 years old||$42.00|
|11 to 20 years old||$62.00|
|21 to 30 years old||$82.00|
|31 to 40 years old||$102.00|
|41 to 50 years old||$122.00|
|51 to 60 years old||$142.00|
|61 to 70 years old||$162.00|
|71 to 80 years old||$182.00|
|81 to 90 years old||$202.00|
How Long Does Accessing Genealogy Reports Take?
Reports requested through the New York State’s Database can take up to 8 months to receive specific pieces. It may be easier to ask for the forms directly through your local county clerk’s office. Doing this will give you quick access to the information.
How Do You Access A Census Report in New York State?
The Federal Census reports get updated every decade. They are used to convey an estimated understanding of how many residents live in New York State and get all of their personal information and data documented into one system.
Church Registration Records
Most churches document a lot of information regarding their parishioners. In these documents, you can usually find a person’s birth certificate, marriage license, the number of children they have, etc.
Affidavits of Petitions in New York State
An affidavit of a petition is a request of sorts made by the public to make a change at the government level. The affidavits created by an individual get signed by many people who would like to see the requested change. You can access or start an affidavit in New York State by logging into the link here. Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.
How do You Access New York State Maps
The public has access to all New York State maps and lands records through the OGS Bureau of land Management with this link https://ogs.ny.gov/real-estate/land-records-and-maps. Anyone has access to the public records regarding public land in New York State dating back four centuries. Information accessible through this link are as follows:
- Maps from the Secretary’s Office- this includes maps from the 1700s-1800s
- Minutes of the Commissioners of the Land Office and Land Board
- Lands Under Water Application Survey Maps, from 1786 to present
- Lands Under Water Index Maps, from 1900 to present
- State-owned water bodies; related research
- Card Index of Land Sales, from the 1650s to present
- Transfer of Jurisdiction Maps
- 1829 Surveyor General’s Atlas of Patents
- Letters Patent
- Miscellaneous Deeds and Title Papers
- Military Patents
You can also request copies of local area maps and land information through your local community library, historical museums, and your local town hall. You can view this information while you are in the facilities, and it will not cost any fee unless you are requesting copies.
Things to Consider
All information accessible to the public through the FOIA is not available for any malaise or criminal acts. Any illegal actions performed due to public records access, including using the information to slander, harass, or blackmail any person, is a criminal offense, punishable by jail time and fines.