Like all of the United States, North Dakota has its own databases and public offices where it stores various types of records that are available to the public. Not all records are free, and they all have their own procedures to access them.
North Dakota Code 44-04-18 is the statute governing access to public records (specifically, electronically stored information). Basically, all records of a public entity in North Dakota are considered public records accessible to the general public.
Under 44-04-17.1 on definitions for words used in the above North Dakota statute, a specific definition for “records” is set forth in its subsection 16. Basically, records consist of recorded and stored information related to the public business, the custody of which is in the appropriate public entities. Thus, drafts, notes, or other types of non-official documents and content are not considered records for public access.
Any lawful request for documents under the above public records statute may not be met with questions about the requestor’s reason or motivation for seeking the information. The record’s provider must deliver the records to the requestor in a reasonable time but may require a fee to cover the actual costs of copying and/or delivering the documents, such as copy paper and postage.
Many records can be sent to you by mail or reviewable online, but some entities require you to go to their public office to inspect information/records in person. In that latter case, it’s important to know the office hours, as they are not open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Once you find the correct public entity for what you’re looking for, it’s normally just a matter of taking a few steps to get the information and/or documents that you’re seeking. Let’s take a look at many of the records available and the most popular ones sought out by the public.
For information on any of the following, see North Dakota law Chapter 44, section 04 on Duties, Records, and Meetings:
- When official reports must be made
- Aliens who commit felonies or are found to be mentally ill
- Inventory of property
- State oversight of record maintenance
- Certain public employee records exempt
- Confidential records (criminal and commercial)
- Access to legislative information and records
- Certain financial information confidential
- Subpoena power over records
- Minors’ information is exempt
- Financial details in consumer complaint exempt
- Autopsy images (partly accessible)
- Records donated to archives and museums
- Social Service reports
- Public meetings minutes
- Disaster and cybersecurity information
- Social security numbers – confidential
- Operations on animal feeding
- Felony and Misdemeanor
- Police reports
- Inmate and jail records
- Arrest records: drug charges, murder, shoplifting, assault, etc.
- Small claims
- Child Custody
- Wills and Trusts
- Breach of Contract
- Prison Transfers
- Evidence put in record at hearings/trials
- Tax issues
- Corporate matters
- Judgment enforcement
- Worker’s Compensation
- Bench warrants
- Traffic tickets
- Name changes
In general, the Data Access page on the North Dakota Courts website is a great place to start if looking for how to review public court records.
Vital Statistics Records
- Birth and Death Certificates
- Marriage and Divorce Certificates
- State Health statistics
- Driving records
- Air and water quality
- Government budgets and annual reports
- Liens and tax issues
- Permits and licenses
- Government employee salaries and wages
*(See InfoTracer’s list of North Dakota records for a more exhaustive list)
Records NOT available to the public
Before we jump into procedures and other information for obtaining records that are available to the public for review and investigation, here’s a list of records that are not made public…
- Cell phone numbers
- Driver’s license numbers
- Dependent information
- Criminal investigative information
- Address of a victim of domestic violence
- Financial account numbers
- Homicide or sex crime scent images
Some additional records and information maintained by the State and Federal Courts of North Dakota which are not accessible by the public (a full list can be found under Section 5 (e) of ND Supreme Court Administrative Rule 41):
- Documents filed for in-camera examination
- Information in Child Relinquishment to Identified Parent cases
- Domestic violence protective order files
- Contents of jury qualification forms
- Addresses of jurors
- Property and debt disclosures of parties to a divorce
How to Access Public Records
In general, specific public offices are commissioned to house and maintain public records which are available for public review. So, first, determine which office (agency) has the type of information that you’re seeking.
Remember, if you go to the right place, follow the required procedures to obtain the records, and they are not provided to you within a “reasonable time,” you may file a complaint with the state’s Attorney General’s Office for assistance.
Let’s dive in…
Criminal History Records (a/k/a Background checks)
Visit the Official online portal for the North Dakota government for a step-by-step list of requesting criminal history records. In summary, you will be required to provide the subject’s full name, date of birth, social security number, and current/last known address.
Once you’ve gathered the above information, you’ll need to fill out a form (“Non-Criminal Justice Request for Criminal History Record Information,” sign it and pay a nominal fee of about $15.00. You must mail this form to the Bureau of Criminal Investigations in North Dakota. Expect to wait up to 15 business days before you receive the requested records.
Note: The above procedure will only get you a record for crimes committed in North Dakota. For a broader search, you’ll need to submit your request directly to the FBI through their website. The FBI permits requests via their electronic portal or via regular mail. Each option requires a low fee of under $20.00.
These records contain information related to an inmate’s actual arrest when the arresting officer completes a record of the suspect’s name, address, physical description, and details of the crime with which the arrestee is charged. This is commonly known as a “RAP” sheet.
These records also show from where to where the suspect is moved throughout his/her jaunt through the criminal justice system (e.g., from scene to precinct, to jail, to trial, and so on). The department in charge of these inmate records which are updated on a daily basis is The North Dakota Corrections and Rehabilitation Department.
The Corrections and Rehabilitation Department is an online system that maintains a huge database of inmate records searchable by the public and any law enforcement agency that wants or needs to find an inmate’s location in the state’s prison system.
North Dakota holds inmates in one of these four locations: county jails, federal prisons, juvenile detention centers, and state prisons. It is easier to locate someone in a prison than someone in jail. Using the resident lookup page on the Corrections and Rehabilitation section of the ND government site is the easiest way to find an inmate.
An arrest warrant is issued by the Court when a named defendant becomes subject to arrest after a hearing on probable cause. Law enforcement agents such as police officers and/or bureau agents present evidence and knowledge which show that the named individual is likely responsible for a crime.
To find out whether there’s a warrant for the arrest for yourself or anyone else, you can do a North Dakota Warrant Search online. You’ll need the first and last name of the person you’re checking on. Any police precinct will also be able to tell you whether someone has an active warrant, at no charge.
Other websites on which you can search for the existence of an arrest warrant include the following. Most require a small fee for the service (normally less than $25.00).
- Arrest Warrant-ArrestWarrant.org
- WarrantCheckIllinois.com – Public Search Warrant Checks
- Nationwide Warrant Search | Active Warrant Lookup (verifyarrestwarrant.com)
- National Arrest Warrant Search | Background Check Through TruDiligence
- North Dakota Warrants Search Directory (onlinesearches.com)
Crime Statistics Annual Reports
Each year the CBI (Criminal Bureau of Investigation) in North Dakota releases a comprehensive report of all of the crimes that occurred that year. They create two: one for only homicides and one for all other crimes. Both reports contain details related to the following non-exclusive list:
- Class of the homicide or other crime
- Number of each category of offense committed
- Division by gender of the offenders
- Geographic locations of the top five offenses that year
- Number of victims per offense
To see any of these annual reports, just visit the Crime and Homicide Reports section of the North Dakota Attorney General website. All you have to do is click on the year of the report that you’d like to review under either “homicide” or “crime.” The full report will pop up on your screen. No fees are required.
For civil court records, the circuit court clerk or the website will be able to provide you with public records related to court cases and procedures. As an overview, North Dakota has a two-part court system. There are District Courts and Municipal Courts.
It helps to understand how the North Dakota state court system works when you’re trying to find court records. The North Dakota trial court system consists of District Courts and Municipal Courts.
District courts have general jurisdiction over the bulk of civil and criminal cases, while Municipal courts have limited jurisdiction of only particular kinds of legal disputes and matters.
Civil cases heard by District Courts, include but are not limited to:
- Small claims
- Wills and Estates
- Name changes
- Restraining orders
The only kind of civil cases that a Municipal Court will hear is ordinance violations.
If you know which county your sought-after record information is connected to, then you’ll want to start with the court office or web pages associated with that county. Some counties have either a district court or a municipal court, some have only one or the other, and the remaining counties have more than one type of court.
Don’t worry. If you don’t know which county has the information you’re looking for, there is a general database to help start your search. Go to the Court Reference home page online where you can simply search with a person’s name and city.
The most common public records search for courts is for case-specific records, like party filings in a lawsuit, court hearing dates and rulings, court orders and dates of their entry, etc. This is for people who want or need to know whether they missed a court date, whether a friend who’s a party to a case had his/her case dismissed, and lots of other active case-related information.
For such specific case records, visit the case search page on the State of North Dakota Courts website and follow the instructions. At a minimum, you will need the name of at least one of the parties to the case or the case number.
First, you’ll choose the court location and what kind of information you need: Criminal/Traffic; Civil, Family; Probate; Judgments Search; or Court Calendar. Again, if you don’t know the county, just choose the “State of North Dakota” option.
If you’re not sure which of the above four kinds of information you should select, here are some details that might help…
- Criminal/Traffic records contain names of defendants/violators, date of citations and/or arrests, the identity of the arresting or issuing police officer, ticket and/or court case numbers, and similar information.
- Civil, Family, and Probate records:
- Civil: Case parties, case numbers; complaints, summons, court orders, motion information, lawyers of records, and the like related to breach of contract cases, property damage cases, personal injury cases, etc.
- Family: Divorce and Civil Union Dissolution cases, child custody disputes, child support, and spousal maintenance cases; adoption cases, paternity cases, parenting time matters, etc.
- Probate: Petitions to Settle a Decedent’s Estate, Petition to Contest a Will; Petition for Release of Property from a Trust, or any case dealing with dead people’s property.
- Judgment Search records show the existence of money judgments entered against a litigant in a case, the case number under which the judgment was entered, the name of the creditor, and the amount of the money judgment, and similar information.
- Court Calendar information provides hours of open court, dates and times set for hearings, statuses, trials, and all other matters on the court’s docket for individual active cases. For example, if you need to find out when the trial on your case is supposed to happen, you can find it in the court calendar search.
Should you prefer to request public court records in person, you can find the address and contact information for any county’s district or municipal court in North Dakota by visiting the Court Locations page on the ND Courts website. All you have to do is select the county, and the following information will pop up… Take Foster County, for example:
Address: 1000 N. Central Ave., Carrington, ND 58421
Danielle Beckley – Clerk of District Court
Justin Johnson – Sheriff
Kara Brinster – State’s Attorney
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 257 Carrington, ND 58421
Regular Courthouse Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Phone: (701) 652-1001
To search for records in a criminal court case, go to the Criminal/Traffic page in the Courts Records Inquiry section of the North Dakota Courts website. There you will have to fill in the name of the individual or business defendant.
You can also narrow the search by selecting which type of criminal matter applies to your search. These are the options given:
- Administrative game and fish violation
- Administrative traffic E-citation
- Administrative traffic
- City transfer
- Municipal Appeal
Once you provide the information needed for the search, the results will flash up and include any case that includes the name and/or other case detail you entered. Then, you can select which specific case you’d like to look into further. A chart like this will be what you see…
Case NumberCitation NumberDefendant InfoFiled/Location/Judicial OfficerType/StatusCharge(s)
|XXXXXXXM||John Smith||01/01/2021/ABC County/Judge Justice||Felony/Closed||Bad action|
|XXXXXXX||John Smith||01/02/2018/DEF County/Judge Niceguy||Felony/Open||Bad action|
Once you select the case number, you will be shown a page with all of the details on the events, actions, and dispositions related to that particular case. This information is free to the public online.
- Bankruptcy: For records in a bankruptcy case, follow the instructions set forth on the North Dakota District Court website on its case information page. There are three main ways to obtain bankruptcy case records:
- Over the telephone. By calling (866) 222-8029 and following the automated prompts, you can get case information over the phone at no charge, but the information provided in this manner is limited as compared with methods 2. and 3. below. You can also have copies of records emailed or mailed to you for a fee of 10 cents per page.
- PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records): Third-party-run online public access site which provides registered users with case and court docket information from bankruptcy courts in addition to district and appellate courts all over the country. The Federal Judiciary implemented this internet service. You must register in order to use the service. This has a fee to register, so if you cannot afford it, call (701) 297-7100.
- In-person (but this is discouraged, as you can order records over the phone). The address of the bankruptcy clerk’s office is Quentin N. Burdick U.S. Courthouse, 655 1st Ave. North, Ste. 210, Fargo, ND 58102. Document copies are 10 cents per page.
- Tax Issues:: Income, Property, and any other tax-related disputes. One of the parties is the State Tax Commissioner, and these cases are heard in the Federal District Court. For information on researching records for these types of court cases, start at the U.S. District Court website for North Dakota.
- PACER is also available for these records, but you must register–Form to register. Access to documents on this site is 10 cents per page.
- Over the telephone by calling (701) 530-2300. The clerk will mail copies to you of the specific documents that you request from a case file. The fee is 50 cents per copy and $11.00 per certified copy.
- In-person. Go to the District Court clerk’s main office and request the records. There will be a copying fee. The address of the main office is William L. Guy Federal Bldg., U.S. Courthouse, PO Box 1193, 220 East Rosser Ave. #476, Bismarck ND 58502-1193. See this page for additional locations.
- Corporate Matters: Cases involving corporations or LLCs (Limited Liability Companies) are heard before State and District Courts, depending on the type of claim filed. Certain legal claims are required to be filed in Federal Courts to help you determine whether you should search in the State Circuit Courts or its District Court.
- Bankruptcy: For records in a bankruptcy case, follow the instructions set forth on the North Dakota District Court website on its case information page. There are three main ways to obtain bankruptcy case records:
For copies of complaints, answers, motions, court orders, and all other documents filed in a corporate case, follow the instructions here on the Case Records Searches section of the North Dakota Courts website. Basically, when you begin your search on the previously cited search page, be sure to select “business” before you enter the party name. Enter the name of the corporation or LLC instead of an individual person’s name.
- Liens: For liens and other official documents related to real estate and money debts, the Recorder’s Office in a given county in North Dakota is where most of those records are accessible. The only time one wouldn’t be is if the owner of the lien never filed it with the Recorder’s Office. So, if you can’t find a sought-after document there, it could still exist elsewhere and be legally enforceable.
The following documents are managed by Recorder’s Offices:
- Judgment liens
- Mechanic’s liens
- Mortgage liens
- Lis Pendens (in foreclosure cases)
- Warranty Deeds
- Quit Claim Deeds
- Release of Liens
- Mortgage Releases
- Trustee Deed
- Satisfaction of Judgment
To review or obtain copies of these types of documents from a Recorder’s Office, visit the county’s general website where you can normally find a list of county departments. Click on the Recorder department to see details on that county’s recorder’s office.
For example, using Burleigh Country, you will be taken to this page. There, accessible lien records are digitized. You can either view them right in their office on a computer on a website that contains all of the State’s Recorder information on a single network.
To view on the website, North Dakota Recorder Information Network, you must register to become a member. Click here to register. Note: It’s $30 for 30 days of use and automatically renews. This site is a one-stop-shop to search all counties in North Dakota, except for McKenzie County, Mountrail County, and Williams County.
Court – Other
Here’s a breakdown of information to help locate public records regarding miscellaneous matters.
Judgment Enforcement: Also known as “supplementary proceedings,” enforcement of money judgments can occur via several different kinds of court proceedings, all of which take place before the same civil court in which the original judgment was entered.
So, if you want to see documents that show what efforts if any, a judgment creditor has taken in court to collect an unpaid judgment, there are certain documents in the file you can look for. Here are the most common:
- Citation to Discover Assets
- Petition for Wage Garnishment
- Third-Party Citation to Discovery Assets (to freeze debtor’s bank account)
Use the same approach to search for these documents that are set forth above for obtaining access to records in Civil Court cases. Go online here or visit the courthouse clerk’s office in person, but it must be in the county where the case was heard and concluded. If online, search in both case types, “Other Civil” or “Special Proceedings.”
Worker’s Compensation: Worker’s Compensation is a benefit provided to workers in North Dakota who work in government positions and to those workers who work for private employers who carry worker’s compensation insurance. Most employers are required to carry such insurance.
Neither the civil municipal nor district court clerks will have documents related to worker’s compensation claims. Worker’s compensation claims are required by statute to be filed with the North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance Department (WSI).
However, private employer worker’s compensation claim documents and files are not generally accessible to the public, as they are considered confidential. Only entities such as health providers, vocational case managers, nurse case managers and the employer against whom the claim is/was filed may gain access to review the file contents.
The information that is available to the public includes the claimant’s name, DOB, date of injury, employer name, general description of the injury, and the status of the claim. The status would be one of three… accepted, denied, or pending. Whether the claim is actively being paid out by the insurance at the time of your inquiry should also be available.
To request claim information, contact WSI in any of the following ways or send them a message on their website portal.
– Phone: (800) 777-5033
– Email: email@example.com
– Building address: 1600 E. Century Ave., Suite 1, Bismarck, ND 58503
– P.O. Box: PO BOX 5585, Bismarck, ND 58506-5585
Name changes: This pertains to records on people who have legally changed their name in a court of law in North Dakota. Such records are maintained by the civil court clerk’s office in the county in which the name change occurred. Check the District Court Civil records using the ND Courts Records Inquiry platform, and choose “Name change” in the case type menu.
Vital Statistics Records
The North Dakota Department of Health has a Vital Records Division.
For certified copies of birth and death certificates, simply click on the one you want (there’s a list on the Vital Records Division home page. Once you choose the type of certificate, you will be sent to a new page that lets you choose how you’d like to obtain your record.
You can request by using their web app, by regular mail, or by going in person to their Bismarck office. Regardless of which option you choose, you will have to complete a REQUEST FOR CERTIFIED COPY OF A BIRTH RECORD form, and pay for the certified copy. $15.00 is the fee, and it includes the search fee/labor.
In addition to the form and fee, you must produce either a primary form of identification (State issued Photo ID or DL; U.S. Military ID card; U.S. Passport or Visa; Bureau of Indian Affairs tribal ID; or U.S. Permanent Resident card). If you don’t have one of those, then two of the following are required:
- Social Security Card
- Utility bill with current address
- Bank statement with current address
- Paystub (must include your name, SSN, name, and address of your employer)
- Vehicle registration with current address (for the current registration year)
- IRS Tax Return (from the prior year)
Driving records: North Dakota’s Transportation Department houses and manages driver’s license records for the state. To view and/or print driving records online, visit the request system page and follow the instructions. Each record downloaded has a $3.00 fee. Note: records obtained in this way are only limited records.
All requestors will ONLY receive a limited version of a driving record. This electronic record is enabled for you to print out. If you require more than the following information, then you will need to request a complete record…
Complete records include violations, points, and convictions over three years old, all violations whether they’re given less than three points or more, and satisfied revocations and suspensions from over three years ago, and any crash incident information.
These limited records do not include the following information:
- convictions, points, or violations that are over three years old
- violations of less than three points
- already satisfied suspensions, cancellations, or revocations and that are over three years old
- collision or crash information
For full driving records which includes all of the above, you will have to fill out a form and mail it with your payment to:
Drivers License Division
608 E Boulevard Ave.
Bismarck, ND 58505
If you have more questions or need more information about driving records, you can call (701) 328-2600.
Maps: Depending on the type of map record you’re seeking, you can request and/or review public records of maps on two different websites. For general maps intended primarily for tourism and general roadmaps for travel, see the Maps, Guides, and Transportation page on North Dakota’s tourism website.
This site will let you view a map of the entire state which includes but is not limited to details on the following…
- County boundaries
- State Forests
- Indian reservations
For more particularized maps, like zoning, tax, burial, or precinct maps, visit the ND GIS Map Search page on countyoffice.org where there’s a list of all North Dakota counties with clickable links to those types of maps for the named county.
Some countries have more than one link. For example, Golden Valley County has two listings, one for “maps” and one for “zoning commission.” If you click on the one for “maps,” you will be taken straight to a navigable map of the county divided up by parcels of property. Online access to the maps at these links is free.
You can also visit a county’s GIS (Geographic Information System) office at their physical address and request map records in person. You can view them on-site for free, but for copies, there is a small fee per page.
To locate the office, simply type the county name and “GIS” in your browser and search. For example, if done for Ramsey County, you will be taken here where the office’s physical address is provided.
Air and water quality: To access records, visit the Department of Environmental Quality records page online where you can view many records. For immediate current condition of the air, see their home page. To obtain physical copies of any records, you must fill out this form and pay a fee of 25 cents per page, plus labor after the worker’s first hour of research and copying.
Government budgets: Both budget summaries and details are viewable online at no charge on the state’s Office of Management and Budgets web page. The records go back up to eight years. If you have questions, you can call their office directly at (701) 328-2680.
For information governing the record-keeping procedures in North Dakota, visit the state’s Records Management page online.