Skip to content

District of Columbia Public Records

The following is for informational purposes only

What are District of Columbia Public Records, and How are They Created?

District Of Columbia Public Records

The District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, DC Code §§ 2-531-539 governs public records and their access. The law states that "All public bodies of the District government are required to disclose public records, except for those records, or portions of records, that are protected from disclosure by the exemptions found at DC Code § 2-534." Any member of the public may request any record under FOIA. However, that does not mean that all records will be provided. Any public body that receives a request has 15 business days to process it or ask for an extension of 10 days to supply you with the materials requested. The public body may or may not charge you a fee for the records you request.

Public bodies are the government offices and agencies that create, store, and maintain public records. Some examples of public bodies are courts, law enforcement agencies, the Attorney General's Office, the Secretary of State's Office, the criminal justice system, and the Department of Corrections. These are just a few of the types of public bodies that are responsible for public records. Additionally, legal professionals and even individuals create public records when they fill out forms and file paperwork.

In the District of Columbia, "The term public record includes all books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings, vote data (including ballot-definition material, raw data, and ballot images), or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by a public body. Public records include information stored in an electronic format." is the government of Washington, D.C., and the agency in charge of public records request per FOIA. They allow the public to request records via fax, mail, email, and even online through a special portal, they set up.

The District of Columbia Archives, Records Center, and the Library of Government Information is the government agency in charge of archived public records. The state has assigned the Office of Public Records and Archives to collect, store, and manage all historical records. Some of the things they are responsible for are "administrative, architectural, engineering, fiscal, genealogical, historical and legal records. The office also surveys, appraises and schedules records; accessions records into the Archives, Records Center and Library of Information; services records and research requests from agencies of the government and the public; refiles and relocates records in the repositories; and disposes records that have met the terms and conditions of the schedules."


How to Access District of Columbia Public Records?

How to Access District Of Columbia Public Records

The state government of Washington, D.C., has set up a handy online portal that the public can use to request public records. They supply the following instructions to use this portal:

You may also use the list of government agencies posted on the portal to contact each one individually to request public records.


Different Types of Public Records in District of Columbia

District of Columbia Criminal Records

The District of Columbia Criminal Division handles all criminal affairs, including criminal records requests. They do not have criminal records posted online. However, you can search through court records easily to find criminal convictions for offenders in the state. They offer an easy-to-use online portal to search cases. Additionally, you can contact local police for criminal records, and some precincts may allow you to take copies for a fee.

Some common types of criminal records in District of Columbia include (but are not limited to):

  • Felony and Misdemeanor Records - common misdemeanors in the District of Columbia include simple assault, destruction of property, DUIs, prostitution, domestic violence, and shoplifting. Some serious felonies in Washington, D.C. are murder, sexual assault, and robbery.
  • DC Inmate Search - both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The District of Columbia Department of Corrections has a phone number you can call to locate criminals and their records.
  • Police Records - local police can provide copies of incident reports, police reports, sometimes mugshots, and even crime scene photos upon request.

District of Columbia Court Records

Different Types of Public Records in District Of Columbia

Court records in District of Columbia are created, stored, and maintained by the District of Columbia Courts. They have a useful website with a search portal to search both types of courts, "Court of Appeals" and "Superior Court" cases. You can easily look up cases and find the information you need for public records requests. Some of the information contained in the records includes "civil, criminal, criminal domestic violence and tax cases, probate cases for large estates and small estates, disclaimers of interest, major litigation, wills, and foreign estate proceedings."

Some types of court records in District of Columbia are:

  • Civil Court Records - domestic relations cases such as divorces, marriages, paternity lawsuits, custody and child support cases, estates, conservatorships, wills, civil lawsuits, and small claims lawsuits.
  • Criminal Court Records - criminal filings for misdemeanors, felonies, and other citations. These may include things like trial paperwork, sentencing, prison transfers, and evidence related to the court case.
  • Financial Court Records - bankruptcies, liens, tax issues, company stock filings, and corporate financial reports.
  • Other Court Records - such as bench warrants, arrest warrants, judgments, traffic tickets and other traffic violations, and name changes.

The District of Columbia court system is split into only two levels the Court of Appeals and Superior Court. Most states have a Supreme Court, but the District of Columbia does not.

You can also visit each courthouse in person to request public records.  

District of Columbia Arrest Records

District of Columbia arrest records may be found in one of two places. You can contact the District of Columbia Criminal Division to request criminal public records or contact the courts through their search portal. The courts will only have convicted criminal case information, not new arrests, and warrants. They do, however, have a list of outstanding warrants on the Criminal Division website.

Some different types of arrests records in District of Columbia are:

  • Drug charges.
  • Murder.
  • Burglary.
  • Spying on someone or using a device to eavesdrop in a private space.
  • Prostitution.
  • DUIs.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Booking details like fingerprints and mugshots.
  • Arrest warrants granted by a judge.
  • Bench warrants for not appearing in court.
  • Crime scene photos.
  • Witness statements.
  • Property crimes and accompanying paperwork.
  • Vehicle records if one was used during the crime.

District of Columbia Vital Records

The DC Health Vital Records Division (DCVRD) is the government agency in charge of collecting, storing, and managing all vital records for the state. They supply the public with birth and death certificates upon request. They have an online ordering system you can use or a phone number to call with questions. Washington, D.C. uses the VitalChek system and warns that records take 2-4 weeks for processing. You must pay a fee when using this service.


Other Public Records in District of Columbia

Other Public Records in District Of Columbia

Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of District of Columbia include, but are not limited to:

  • Government budgets and annual reports.
  • Driving records (without personally identifiable information).
  • Home addresses.
  • Maps, books, and tapes.
  • State health and wellness statistics.
  • Air and water quality (pollution reports).
  • Property records, real estate deals, and land deeds.
  • Home phone numbers.
  • Police and accident reports.
  • Liens & tax issues.
  • Company incorporation records.
  • Demographics.
  • Library Research.
  • Personnel records for state agencies.
  • Permits, licenses, and certifications.
  • Government employee salaries.

What Information is Not Public Record in the District of Columbia?

According to DC Code: § 2-534 Exemptions from disclosure, the following information are not public records:

  • "Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from outside the government, to the extent that disclosure would result in substantial harm to the competitive position of the person from whom the information was obtained.
  • Information of a personal nature where the public disclosure thereof would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
  • Investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes, including the records of Council investigations and investigations conducted by the Office of Police Complaints, but only to the extent that the production of such records would:
  • Interfere with enforcement proceedings, council investigations; or office of Police Complaints ongoing investigations, deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, disclose the identity of a confidential source and, in the case of a record compiled by a law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation, or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, confidential information furnished only by the confidential source, disclose investigative techniques and procedures not generally known outside the government; or endanger the life or physical safety of law-enforcement personnel."