Which Federal Laws Apply to Public Records in the United States of America?
In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson passed the Freedom of Information Act. It came into effect in 1967, a year later, and governs every public record held and maintained within the United States of America. The act states that the public has the right to access these records from public agencies and government entities.
With that being said, there are 9 exemptions within the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) that restrict access to certain types or parts of documents. The exemptions are:
- Internal practices and rules
- Classified foreign relations and national defense information
- Trade secrets
- Information prohibited from public eyes under another federal law
- Communications between agencies that are exempt under legal privileges such as attorney-client
- Information about personal privacy and identifiable individual data under the Privacy Act
- Geological data on wells
- Information about how financial institutions are supervised
- Information made by and/or for law enforcement only if the disclosure of the records would do one or more of the following:
- Invade somebody’s personal privacy
- Identify a source who requested anonymity
- Strip someone of their right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication
- Leak techniques used by law enforcement offices for investigations and prosecutions
- Endanger the physical safety of a singular person or group
- Interfere with process and/or practices used by law enforcement
How Does Wyoming Law Define Public Records?
The Wyoming Public Records Act (Wyoming State Legislature Title 16 Article 2 Chapter 4 WS 16-4-201 to 16-4-205) was enacted by the Legislature of the State of Wyoming to govern all the public records within the state. It states that all public records will be open for inspection by anybody during standard state business hours
The act defines public records in § 16-2-201 (v) as any information regardless of physical form accepted, created, or obtained by the state or institution, political subdivision, or agency of the state which isn’t covered by an additional legal privilege or law. This includes any written communication regardless of medium received by the state or its entities regarding transactions of public business both inside or outside of a meeting.
In § 16-4-201 (vi) (A) of the Wyoming Public Records Act, it expands on this definition to include original vouchers, receipts, and other transaction-related documents held within government bodies are public records. Section 16-4-201 (vi) (B) states that booklets, correspondence, exhibits, drawings, blank forms, maps, and so forth that were not yet stated in previous subsections still classify as public records in the state of Wyoming.
Sadly, the Wyoming Public Records Act is known as the worst in the nation. In 2015, the state was given the bottom ranking because the law doesn’t require a specific response time, there is no appeals process, and there is no enforcement method except a lawsuit.
With that being said, § 16-4-202 (b) states that if a request has been made to a person who is not in control or does not have custody of the requested record, the custodian or authorized individual who does have control must notify the requester within 7 days. Also, § 16-4-202 (c) ensures that in the event a public record is in use or storage at the time of the request and is thus, not available, the requester needs to be notified within 7 days from receipt of the request.
You can submit a request for public records whether you are a Wyoming resident or not, and judicial, legislative, and executive agencies must abide by the law (regardless of how brief said law might be). Additionally, record custodians are not allowed to ask why you need the records.
Examples of Wyoming Public Records
Wyoming public records include, but are not limited to:
- Court records
- Criminal records (including inmate, warrant, and arrest records)
- Driving records
- Sex offender information
- Vital records
- Government contracts and transactions
Wyoming Public Records Exemptions
While Wyoming does keep a relatively transparent public records law, there are tight restrictions placed on certain types and parts of documents. Below, you will find a list of all the exemptions currently stated in the Public Records Act of this stage, along with a link to the relevant code for you to find out extra information:
- Investigation or intelligence records — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (b) (i) — This includes information relating to security procedures made or followed by the sheriff, county attorney, attorney general, state auditor, police department, or other law enforcement personnel. It also includes investigatory filed by law enforcement for prosecution reasons.
- Examination data, test questions, and scoring keys — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (b) (ii) — Written promotional scores and examinations will be available for inspection after the test has happened and has been graded. However, they will not be available for reproduction or copying, regardless of whether the exam has occurred.
- Details of bona fide research conducted by state institutions — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (b) (iii)
- Contents of real estate appraisals — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (b) (iv) — This includes details of property acquisition and notes of interest in properties for public use. The owner of the property/interest will be able to access the contents of appraisals at any time and is also legally able to agree to public disclosure of such records. If other Wyoming statutes require the records of this type to be disclosed, then it shall override this subsection.
- Memoranda or letters of interagency communications — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (b) (v) — This exemption only applies if the request comes from a person involved in litigation with the agency
- Vulnerability assessments, emergency procedures, and security procedures located in plans designed to stop or respond to terrorist attacks — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (A)
- Building plans, blueprints, diagrams, operational manuals, etc. that reveal a building’s internal layout, life support systems, surveillance techniques, security systems, personnel deployment for airports, emergency response facilities, water systems, and other such aspects — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (B)
- Records of buildings/structures owned, operated, or leased by the state or its political subdivisions that reveal life and safety systems, alarm systems, evacuation plans, and similar — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (C)
- Records made to stop or respond to terrorist attacks or similar security threats that identify the name contents, capacity, physical features, capabilities, storage, or laboratories established/regulated/maintained/used by the state or subdivisions — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (D)
- Applications for positions of president of an institution of higher education — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (vii) — This includes recommendation letters, references, and information related to the hiring process of such president.
- The sociological, medical, and psychological data on individuals — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (i) — This does not include coroners’ verdicts and written dockets subject to Wyoming Statutes 7-4-105(a).
- Adoption or welfare information on individuals — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (ii)
- Employee personnel files — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (iii) — These files will only be available to officials who supervise the work of the individual. This includes files such as performance ratings, educational achievements, and working agreements.
- Reference letters for employment — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (iv)
- Trade secrets, confidential data, and privileged information — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (v)
- Library, museum documents, and archives contributed by private individuals —Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (vi)
- Hospital records containing information relating to medical administration, staff, care, and personnel — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (vii) — This subsection covers both individuals and groups.
- School district records — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (viii) — This includes information relating to the family, academic achievement, physical ability, physiology, biography, religion, or mental ability of any student.
- Library transaction and registration records pertaining to patrons — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (ix) — This excludes requests made by a custodial guardian or parent to inspect records of his/her child.
- Information gained through a 911 emergency telephone system — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (x)
- Information made for the purpose of investigating violations of and enforcing interagency personnel rules/policies — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (xi) — This subsection only applies if the disclosure of such data would create an undue invasion of personal privacy.
- Information about the elements, design, components, and location of the state’s technological and physical security systems — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (xii)
- Records about individual diagnoses of infectious, toxic, genetic, or contagious diseases maintained/collected by the state veterinary lab — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (xiii)
- Information about the agricultural operational, conservation practice, or farming procedures — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (d) (xiv) — This only applies if the information was provided by an agricultural producer/owner to participate in a program of the stage. Geospatial information falls under this subsection too.
- Income tax returns that identify an individual — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (E) (xv)
- Individual records relating to an employee’s compensation claim —
- Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (E) (xvi)
- Consensus revenues that disclose any information considered by groups defined in W.S. 9-2-1002 — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (E) (xvii)
- Information acquired through a peace officer — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (xviii) — provided that:
- Custodians must allow inspections of law enforcement personnel to ensure official business can be conducted.
- Custodian must allow the person of interest to review the records.
- Custodians must allow inspection when it is in the public’s best interest to do so.
- Records of investment funds committee — Wyoming Public Records Act § 16-4-203 (xix) — This includes committee deliberations and tentative decisions.
Section 16-4-203 (a) adds extra requirements that ensure no record will be available for public inspection if the disclosure of such would do the following:
- Be contrary to any Wyoming state statute
- Be contrary to federal statute or regulation
- Be against rules made by the supreme court or any court of record
If you are denied access to a record covered by the Wyoming Public Records Act, you can request a written statement of the reason for the denial under § 16-4-203 (e).
Where Can You Acquire Wyoming Public Records?
Regardless of whether you are a resident of Wyoming state or not, you can make a public record request under § 16-4-204. You are not required to submit a statement of purpose along with your request.
You must direct your mailed, emailed, or written request to the appropriate county department. Thankfully, there is a list of all designated public records contacts in the state of Wyoming compiled by state officials to make it easier for you to practice your right to inspect the documents. Although, it’s worth noting that the designated contact may not be the official custodian of the record.
Designated public records contacts may accept verbal requests if they feel it right to do so on a case-by-case basis.
In 2019, Senate File 57 was passed which created the position of Public Records Ombudsman in the state of Wyoming. The ombudsman is a resource for both public agencies and those who have been denied access by the aforementioned public agencies.
When denied, you can choose to file a complaint with the District Court or the Public Records Ombudsman. Opting to file your complaint with the ombudsman gives you the following benefits:
- Mediation of disputes between you and the agency that denied your request.
- Timelines for the release of the information you asked for.
- Waived fees for copying the record information.
Generally speaking, a governmental entity should handle a public records request by following these steps:
- Identify the records that you’ve requested:
- If the record is confusing, the agency is allowed to ask you for clarification.
- Find out whether the agency is the custodian of the record
- If not, they must notify you within 7 days so you can direct your request to the custodian.
- Notification in 7 days must also happen if the records are being used or in storage and thus, currently not available.
- Gather the records
- Review the records
- Agencies will then figure out whether the records are confidential by law, exempt, or can be given to you without constraint.
- Redact or segregate information
- If possible, the agency will work with an attorney at this point.
- Release records
- The agency will then release your records via electronic mail or snail mail within 30 days (although, there is no enforcement of this time limit included in the law).
Are There Any Fees Associated with Making a Public Record Request in Wyoming?
According to the 2017 Wyoming Statutes Public Records Act 16-4-204 (C), ensured that all fees or charges applied by custodians of public records are authorized by executive order before they are accepted. As such, the fees associated with making a public record request cannot be more than the necessary and actual cost of the materials and/or services used to fulfill the request. This includes the costs of producing a copy, retrieving the record, constructing the record, and programming services.
With that said, a public agency cannot charge you a fee as a condition of making the records you have requested available. This is against the law, and if such a situation happens to you, it’s vital that you contact the Public Records Ombudsman or the District Court.
Wyoming Court Records
Let us take a brief look at the court function and structure throughout Wyoming.
The state has one federal district court, a state supreme court, circuit courts, and municipal courts. Each one serves a different, yet equally important, purpose.
The federal district court in Wyoming is called the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming. If decisions of this court are appealed, the case moves to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals located in Denver at the Byron White Federal Courthouse.
It deals with civil and criminal cases in all 23 counties in the state.
State Supreme Court
The Wyoming Supreme Court is known as the court of last resort in the state. It hears appeals from the trial courts and is the only appellate court in the entire state. Currently, there are 5 judges on the court.
Trial Court: Wyoming District Courts
District courts often hear appeals from the lower courts. They have general jurisdiction over the nine judicial districts it serves in Wyoming. They typically deal with the most serious cases in the state. Any appeals in these courts go directly to the Wyoming Supreme Court.
The nine judicial districts and the included counties are as follows:
- First District — Laramie
- Second District — Carbon and Albany
- Third District — Sweetwater, Uinta, and Lincoln
- Fourth District — Sheridan and Johnson
- Fifth District — Hot Springs, Park, Washakie, and Big Horn
- Sixth District — Crook, Weston, and Campbell
- Seventh District — Natrona
- Eight District — Goshen, Platte, Niobrara, and Converse
- Nine District — Sublette, Fremont, and Teton
Trial Court: Wyoming Circuit Courts
The Circuit Courts have limited jurisdiction and there is one in each of the 23 counties. They hear all misdemeanor criminal issues and smaller civil cases. As long as the damages or recovery asked for doesn’t go beyond $50,000, (this limit was increased from $7,000 on July 1, 2011) Circuit Courts can cover the case.
Trial Court: Wyoming Municipal Courts
There are 72 municipal courts in this state. They handle all traffic and ordinance violations.
Are Court Records Public Information in Wyoming?
Court records contain information about various cases and as such, are generally used in custody battles and similar. However, requesting court records can be done for many other reasons since they are held under the Wyoming Public Records Act.
Once given the record, you will find the following information contained within:
- Witness documentation
- Sentencing information
- Judgment information
- Court orders
- Jury records
- Court transcripts
- Case files
- Court minutes
Remember, they tend to be long documents. So, you will have to fund the actual cost of creating copies if you do request them.
Where Can You Get Copies of Court Records?
Unfortunately, Wyoming doesn’t have an online database to search for all cases. However, you can search for appellant cases at the Clerk’s Office of the Wyoming Supreme Court.
Ideally, you should start your search for court records at the Wyoming Judicial Branch. Here, you will find a list of all the courts on one page, with links straight to the forms required for requesting court records from each one.
You may need to visit your local courthouse or get in touch with your local clerk of court by telephone, mail, or email to acquire the documents you’re after.
All local courts keep records of all the cases tried there. It helps the search if you have a docket number or the names of both parties involved with the case.
Wyoming Criminal Records
The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation oversees all the state’s criminal records. These documents are useful when you need to get a job, security clearance, or certifications. Often, they are used for parents hiring babysitters and other childcare positions.
Criminal records contain information about your dealings with law enforcement and the courts. Details are pulled from police stations, state prisons, and criminal courts to compile as much accurate information as possible about your cases.
There tend to be these five factors shown on a criminal record in Wyoming:
- Your name, nationality, and date of birth
- Distinguishing features such as tattoos, piercings, birthmarks, and scars
- Offenses — This is usually in a list format that includes both felonies and misdemeanors. It also details the crimes. Typically, it will show you the classification of the crime as well (i.e., Class A, Class B, etc.).
How to Search for Criminal Records in Wyoming?
To find criminal records in Wyoming, you must visit the Division of Criminal Investigation of the state. This is held inside the office of the Attorney General.
The Wyoming Statutes § 7-19-107 (a) dictate that this division is the central repository for all criminal history record information. It ensures that all records and practices are audited regularly to ensure the accuracy of the criminal history information collected, used, and maintained within its facilities as per § 7-19-107 (h).
Unfortunately, this is the only way to gain access to criminal records in Wyoming. They have not yet organized an online database to make these documents and files easier to find.
How Long Does a Criminal History Record Check Take in Wyoming?
Generally speaking, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation takes around 2 weeks to complete a criminal history record check request. Although, this does change depending on the monthly volume of requests at the time, as well as the quality of the fingerprints sent in. If the monthly volume is high or the quality of the fingerprints is low, it can take around 5 to 6 weeks to process and complete your request.
Payment can also affect the speed, so sending it in the correct format is key! All payments should be submitted via money order for the full amount to The Office of the Attorney General. It’s worth noting that cash, personal checks, and credit cards are never accepted.
To submit your money order, send it to the following address:
208 S. College Dr.
Cheyenne, WY 82002
How Long Does Arrest Information Stay on Your Wyoming Criminal Record?
Usually, DUIs, arrests, and similar information will stay on your Wyoming criminal record indefinitely. However, you may be able to qualify for expungement of such records under Wyoming Statutes § 7-13-1401 and § 7-13-1501 if your situation matches certain criteria.
According to the Wyoming Statutes § 7-13-1401 (a), you can file for expungement of arrest records, dispositions, and charges subject to the limitations defined below:
- It has been 180 days since the arrest or 180 days since the charge/charges were dismissed, and there are no formal charges against you. (WY Stat § 7-13-1401 (i))
- There have been no convictions pursuant to any charges due to the incident that caused the arrest. (WY Stat § 7-13-1401 (A))
- No criminal charges were filed in court due to the incident leading to the arrest. (WY Stat § 7-13-1401 (B))
- All criminal processes against you following the arrest were dismissed by the court/prosecutor. (WY Stat § 7-13-1401 (C))
If you are trying to get your juvenile arrest records expunged, you should refer to the Wyoming Statutes § 14-6-241.
Can You Challenge Your Criminal History Record Information?
The Wyoming Criminal History Record Act § 7-19-109 covers the inspection, modification, and deletion of information from your criminal record.
As per § 7-19-109 (a), you have the right to inspect your criminal history information contained within the state of Wyoming. If you wish to purge, supplement, or change inaccurate/incomplete information, you can contact the District Court under this subsection to do so. If your request is approved, anybody who received a copy of your record within the last 12 months, will receive an updated copy once the changes have been made.
Wyoming Warrant Records
There are 4 types of warrant records in Wyoming — arrest, bench, search, and fugitive. It’s worth understanding all of them before considering how to access them. Find the definitions below:
These are issued by a grand jury or judge when law enforcement concludes that there is “probable cause” or “reasonable opinion” that a specified individual broke the law. The arrest warrant grants permission for law enforcement officers to arrest and detain the individual.
Typically, you won’t be aware that an arrest warrant was granted until the police arrest you.
These are issued by a judge if an individual has broken the court’s guidelines. This is usually due to the subject not appearing in court, but they can include delinquency on child support payments.
A magistrate generally issues search warrants. County law enforcement must first convince the magistrate judge that criminal activities may be happening at the specified location. Once convinced, the magistrate will give the warrant to law enforcement, permitting them to search an individual’s workplace, home, warehouse, or other predetermined location.
A fugitive is somebody who is on the run from the law. This type of warrant is similar to arrest warrants, but it is made in one jurisdiction for a person in a different jurisdiction. They ensure all districts have cohesiveness when tracking and detaining fugitives.
How to Search for Wyoming Warrant Records
Searching for Wyoming warrant records is easy. Even though the state does not have a statewide warrant search system, you can simply head to each local court’s website and search the name. The information is provided to you for free, and it ensures an uncomplicated, quick searching experience, as long as you know the county in which the warrant would be held.
If for some reason, you cannot access the websites, you can speak to the clerk of court or the county clerk directly by visiting the courthouse or phoning them.
What Is the Difference Between an Arrest Warrant and an Arrest Record?
The difference between an arrest warrant and an arrest record is simple:
- Arrest record: A document that is created after an arrest or apprehension has occurred by the officer who arrested the named individual.
- Arrest warrant: A document that is given to law enforcement officers by a magistrate, judge, or grand jury permitting the officers to arrest a specific individual (never a group) of a suspected crime.
Wyoming Arrest Records
We have compiled a short overview of Wyoming’s crime statistics based on FBI reports:
- In 2019, there were a total of 10,351 criminal incidents reported, 713 of which were vehicle thefts and 13 were murders.
- In the same year, the crime rate for rape was 56 per 100,000 residents and for violent crimes, it was 217.4 per 100,000 residents.
- In 2018, 28,437 arrests were made, reported by 54 law enforcement agencies. 11.22% of the arrests were minors (i.e., under 18 years of age). 600 were made for violent crimes — 12 murders, 26 rapes, and 21 robberies.
- The second leading cause of arrest in Wyoming in 2018 was DUIs. The first cause was drug abuse violations.
- Wyoming’s overall crime rate is 17.88 per 1,000 residents.
- Riverton, Cheyenne, Rawlins, Lander, and Evanston are said to be the most dangerous cities in the state, whereas Green River, Worland, Laramie, Torrington, and Jackson are the safest as of 2018.
- By the end of 2019, there were 2,107 registered sex offenders in Wyoming.
What Do Wyoming Arrest Records Show?
Arrest records show the following information:
- Active warrants
- Marijuana convictions
- Other drug convictions
- Parole and/or probation history
- Sex offender information
What Is the Difference Between an Arrest Record and a Criminal Record?
An arrest record is a document made by law enforcement officers after they have arrested a specific individual for an alleged crime. A criminal record, on the other hand, is a detailed look at a person’s criminal background. This includes arrests, warrants, convictions, and everything in-between.
What Is a Public Arrest Record?
Arrest records detail the incident, include the subject’s information, and at times, include additional tidbits about the person’s previous criminal activity.
These documents are often a key part of a criminal case and can be used as grounds for a trial. They remain public information indefinitely (regardless of whether the individual did commit the alleged crime or not) unless it is expunged.
What Does a Public Arrest Record Show in Wyoming?
In Wyoming, public arrest records show the following information:
- The incident description including:
- A chronological account of the incident
- First-hand witness accounts
- Victim accounts
- Date of the arrest
- Location of the arrest
- Physical description of the person including:
- Hair color
- Personal information including:
- Date of birth
- Phone number
- Social security number
- Other contact information
- Other aliases
- Court date
- Criminal charges
- Crime classification
- Police interrogation details
Who Can Access Wyoming Arrest Records?
Wyoming arrest records can be accessed by anybody upon request to the local law enforcement department or in a state background check.
Why Can’t You Access an Arrest Record in Wyoming?
If the arrest records are being used, are in storage, or fall (for some reason) under one of the exemptions discussed earlier, you won’t be able to access them.
How to Search for Arrest Records in Wyoming
You can request a copy of your own criminal history information to use however you please in Wyoming. Your record will include arrests and other information compiled from these sources:
- Wyoming databases
- Western Identification Network (WIN) which includes the states below:
The fee is $15 to request your criminal records, and you will also need to complete a valid fingerprint card. The steps to take are as follows:
- Go to your nearest police department or sheriff’s office.
- Ask for your fingerprints to be taken on an FBI 8 x 8 BLUE card. You can have your fingerprints taken at the Division of Criminal Investigation Office for $5 if you would prefer.
- Fill out your information on the top of the fingerprint card.
- Make a money order or certified check of $15 out to the Office of the Attorney General.
- State your request for your arrest information and ensure you supply your address and phone number if you’re applying through the mail.
- Send your payment, note, and fingerprint card in an envelope addressed to:
Division of Criminal Investigation
208 South College Drive
Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002
Wyoming Inmate Records
Inmate records are often used by employers and other people wanting to understand the details/history of an inmate while incarcerated. Often, crime victims who wish to object to release or parole use the records to help their case.
They contain a lot of information about incarceration, behavior while in prison or jail, and their release/parole date.
What Shows Up on an Inmate Record in Wyoming?
Most states, including Wyoming, show the following information on an inmate record:
- Date of birth
- Inmate location
- Inmate registration number
- Custody status
- Jail transfer information
Where Can You Find Wyoming Inmate Records?
The state has compiled an Offender Locator on the Wyoming Department of Corrections website. You must know the WDOC inmate number or the first two letters of the person’s last name to search using the database. There are also filters for gender and age to help narrow results when conducting name-based searches.
Wyoming Sex Offender Information
The Division of Criminal Investigation has produced an online Sex Offender Registry that can be searched by the public to aid public safety and security. Under the Wyoming Statutes § 7-19-303 (c) (iii) the following information about sex offenders is included on the registry:
- Offender’s name and any known aliases
- Physical address
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Date of conviction
- Place of conviction
- Physical characteristics
- History of all convictions
- License plate and description of vehicles owned/used by the offender
- Physical address of any employers
- Physical address of education institutions attended by the offender